Close up of researcher working with samples in a lab

Research projects

Shining a light on the link between obesity and breast cancer’s ability to spread

Dr Hector Peinado
Project period
Mar 2024 - Feb 2027
Research Institute
Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO)
Cancer types
Breast cancer
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Peinado and his team know that obesity makes it easier for breast cancer to grow and spread, but they are asking the important questions about exactly why this is the case. This project will shine a light on the link between obesity and cancer spread, which they hope could lead to new cures for triple negative breast cancer.

Hope for the future

Around 15 out of every 100 cases of breast cancer are triple negative. This is an aggressive form of breast cancer that is not only more challenging to treat than other types of breast cancer, but also more likely to spread to other organs – a process known as metastasis - and to come back after treatment. While survival has improved for many types of breast cancer, the majority of deaths from the disease are due to metastasis, and so triple negative breast cancer is particularly dangerous.

Obesity is a known risk factor for metastatic breast cancers, and Dr Peinado and his team want to investigate why this is. They hope that their research could lead to treatments that could slow metastasis, and uncover potential new leads in the search for triple negative breast cancer cures.


Dr Hector Peinado in his lab

Meet the scientist

Hector is married to a neuroscientist, and together, they have two children. His favourite part of the day is spending time with them and watching them play sports, such as soccer (Leo's favorite) and volleyball (Vera's favorite). His main hobby is gardening and caring for his garden and vegetables.


The science

We know that obesity increases the risk of several types of cancer – in particular breast cancer – as well as increasing risk of cancer spreading to other parts of the body. But there still isn’t a clear explanation of why obesity should make this more likely.

Another risk associated with triple negative breast cancer is that even after treatment, the cancer can return later. This is because cancer cells go dormant and stay in the body before “waking up” again.

Dr Peinado has previously discovered that it could be because high levels of body fat can change our internal organs, acting as a fertilizer allowing cancer cells to thrive. This makes it much easier for cancer to grow and spread. They also expect that one of the reasons metastasis is more aggressive in patients with obesity is that dormant cancer cells “wake up” faster, causing a relapse.

If the team can identify the mechanism behind this, they may be able to develop methods to identify patients at high risk of their cancer coming back. It could lead the way to treatments that keep tumour cells dormant for longer, halting cancer growth and allowing breast cancer patients to lead longer, healthier lives.

Dr Hector Peinado in his lab Dr Hector Peinado
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