Publication Abstract

Authors: Duggan C, Risques R, Alfano C, Prunkard D, Imayama I, Holte S, Baumgartner K, Baumgartner R, Bernstein L, Ballard-Barbash R, Rabinovitch P, McTiernan A

Title: Change in peripheral blood leukocyte telomere length and mortality in breast cancer survivors.

Journal: J Natl Cancer Inst 106(4):dju035-

Date: 2014 Apr

Abstract: BACKGROUND: Progressive telomere shortening with cell division is a hallmark of aging. Short telomeres are associated with increased cancer risk, but there are conflicting reports about telomere length and mortality in breast cancer survivors. METHODS: We measured peripheral blood leukocyte telomere length at two time points in women enrolled in a multiethnic, prospective cohort of stage I to stage IIIA breast cancer survivors diagnosed between 1995 and 1999 with a median follow-up of 11.2 years. We evaluated associations between telomere length measured at mean 6 (baseline; LTL0; n = 611) and 30 months (LTL30; n = 478) after diagnosis and the change between those time points (n = 478), with breast cancer-specific and all-cause mortality using Cox proportional hazards models adjusted for possible confounders. Statistical tests were two-sided. RESULTS: There were 135 deaths, of which 74 were due to breast cancer. Neither baseline nor 30-month telomere length was associated with either all-cause or breast cancer-specific mortality (LTL0: hazard ratio [HR] = 0.83, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.67 to 1.02; HR = 0.88; 95% CI = 0.67 to 1.15; LTL30: HR = 0.78, 95% CI = 0.59 to 1.05; HR = 0.86; 95% = CI = 0.58 to 1.26, respectively). However, participants whose telomeres shortened between baseline and 30 months were at a statistically significantly increased risk of breast cancer-specific (HR = 3.03; 95% CI = 1.11 to 8.18) and all-cause mortality (HR = 2.38; 95% CI = 1.28 to 4.39) compared with participants whose telomeres lengthened. When follow-up was censored at 5-years after diagnosis, LTL0 (HR = 0.66; 95% CI = 0.45 to 0.96), LTL30 (HR = 0.51; 95% CI = 0.29 to 0.92), and change in telomere length (HR = 3.45; 95% CI = 1.11 to 10.75) were statistically significantly associated with all-cause mortality. CONCLUSIONS: Telomere shortening was associated with increased risk of breast cancer-specific and all-cause mortality, suggesting that change in blood telomere length over time could be a biomarker of prognosis. Research on determinants of telomere length and change is needed.