Breast cancer may be linked to obesity, according to a recent study published by the Cancer Prevention Institute of California; and researchers from numerous universities believe they've had a scientific breakthrough that would bring an end to obesity.

Spanish and Mexican researchers have identified the specific molecule in a protein/protease that prevents the generation of fat cells. Those researchers committed 18 months to the creation of a drug to fight obesity. The timing is impeccable, as two new studies have just unveiled that obesity increases the risk of particular types of breast cancer in African-American and Hispanic women, especially if they're postmenopausal.

The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM), the National Institute of Genomic Medicine (IMEGEN) and Landsteiner Scientific Laboratory with the Spanish subsidiary Neopharm Obesity officials collaborated to identify the protein "responsible" for obesity to develop a molecule that inhibits it. The computer design for the potential drugs will be carried out in Mexico and the synthesis and study of clinical participants will be performed in Spain. That laboratory also focuses on hypertension, Alzheimer's, cancer and Parkinson's, among other diseases. The protease research is still in its preclinical stage, but it's promising for the non-white population.

"Obesity is one of the major problems that we will 'attack' with the use of genomic medicine. There are already companies developing medicines for the Caucasian population, [so we're] focusing the study to Latinos," Francisco Kuri Brena, director of new developments from the laboratory, said to Science Daily.

Patricia Ostrosky, director of the Institute for Biomedical Research, led the team at UNAM, where there's a model for cells that they'll validate if the molecule inhibits the protease. UNAM has five research candidates, who've been used to examine the inhibition of fat cells in humans. At the same time, UAM conducted research on animal models, which will be subjected to a high-fat diet to gain weight. Then, the molecule that inhibits the protein that generates fat will be administered. Models are expected to eat a lot of fat, but not be overweight.

According to Kuri Brena, the genomic variation and metabolism in Mexico is "slightly" different from the Caucasian community. The variation in Mexican and Latino genomes means that some medicines won't work adequately because they're designed for European and American consumers. That knowledge helps enhance effective treatments, avoid adverse reactions and optimize the drug dose.

"We made use of genomic medicine, which is the application of knowledge of the human genome and has allowed us to predict drug efficacy in Mexican and Latino populations. Obesity is one of the main problems we want to attack, because after the USA we are the next country with the majority of cases," said Brena.

According to the National Cancer Institute, past research has linked obesity to cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, endometrium, kidney, thyroid and gallbladder, among others. A study from 2007 estimated that around 34,000 new cases of cancer in males (4 percent) and 50,500 in women (7 percent) could be attributed to obesity.

More than 3,000 Hispanic women were analyzed for one of the studies regarding overweight individuals and obesity and breast cancer. It revealed that those who were obese or overweight have a higher risk of estrogen receptor-negative and progesterone receptor-positive breast tumors. That said, similar studies in the past have said claimed there's no link between obesity and breast cancer among Mexican-American women.

A study led by epidemiologist Dr. Elisa V. Bandera of the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey on the subject came to a dissimilar conclusion, however. Bandera and her research team linked obesity to different hormone-receptor types among 15,000 African-American women, finding that being overweight was associated with 31 percent of ER-positive tumors in postmenopausal black women. There are numerous ways to classify breast cancer, as it isn't a single disease. For that reason, certain people are are affected by different subtypes of the disease and its risk factors.

"We know that breast cancer has several subtypes and there is growing evidence that these subtypes have different risk factors," Bandera said in the press release. "The distribution of these subtypes and risk factors are different for African-Americans and Hispanics compared to white women."

There are three unique signifiers that help doctors to define breast cancer subtypes, according to the Breast Cancer Fund: understanding the site of the tumor's origin (whether ductal or lobular cancer); if the tumor is contained within the walls of the ducts or lobes; and the "reproductive status" of women, or if they're pre-menopausal or post-menopausal.

"This has huge implications for not just Hispanics, but all women," said Esther M. John, PhD, MSPH, Senior Research Scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California. "We cannot change genetics or family history, but we can do something about obesity. You can eat less, choose healthier foods and do more physical activity ... And it's important for not just lowering breast cancer risk but for many other diseases."

More research needs to done to fully capture how obesity has influenced the likelihood of breast cancer. But, to lessen the likelihood of breast cancer and/or other obesity-related illnesses, one should focus on healthier food consumption and/or daily or routine exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight. A drug to fight obesity is on the horizon, but there's nothing quite comparable to living healthy.