The Department congratulates Sarah Nyante, PhD, for receiving NIH R01 funding ($2.7M+) in July 2019 for her proposal entitled – “Understanding the Biological Basis for the Association Between Parenchymal Texture Features and Breast Cancer Risk.” Over five years (9/1/2019-8/31/2024), Dr. Nyante’s research seeks to advance the limited, current methodology applied to whole breast composition through examining measurements of parenchymal texture features as potential biomarkers of breast cancer risk and prognosis. Dr. Nyante’s team aims to produce evidence that clarifies whether parenchymal texture features are potential of breast cancer risk and therapeutic response. Sarah J. Nyante, Ph.D.

Dr. Nyante’s study will apply lattice-based grid methodology to inform texture feature measurements using mammograms, biopsy specimens and electronic medical records within a UNC registry of female mammography participants. The three aims are to: 1) identify texture features independently associated with newly-diagnosed breast cancer in women screened for breast cancer; 2) evaluate how texture features associated with breast cancer in this population vary with estrogen levels; and 3) evaluate associations between texture features and breast histologic characteristics (e.g., measures of lobular involution) among women with a benign biopsy.

Over five years, Dr. Nyante’s team seeks to establish: 1) the magnitude of the relationship between lattice-based texture features and breast cancer in a general screening population; 2) the extent to which texture features act as biosensors of breast estrogen/anti-estrogen activity; and 3) whether texture features can serve as a radiologic surrogate of histologic characteristics associated with breast cancer risk. Results clarifying the biological processes associated with the relationship between parenchymal texture features and breast cancer may contribute to the mammography literature by facilitating identification of new breast cancer prevention targets as well as the development of parenchymal texture as a tool to monitor response to anti-estrogenic treatments.

Nyante noted: “This study builds upon my previous research involving mammographic breast density by investigating related but less well-understood measures of breast composition. It’s our hope that the long-term applications of this research will contribute to reducing the burden of breast cancer among women participating in mammography.”