Circulating Adipose Fatty Acid Binding Protein Is a New Link Underlying Obesity-Associated Breast/Mammary Tumor Development

Jiaqing Hao, Yuwen Zhang, Xiaofang Yan, Fei Yan, Yanwen Sun, Jun Zeng, Sabine Waigel, Yanhui Yin, Mostafa M. Fraig, Nejat K. Egilmez, Jill Suttles, Maiying Kong, Shujun Liu, Margot P. Cleary, Edward Sauter, Bing Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


It is clear that obesity increases the risk of many types of cancer, including breast cancer. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms by which obesity is linked to cancer risk remain to be defined. Herein, we report that circulating adipose fatty acid binding protein (A-FABP) promotes obesity-associated breast cancer development. Using clinical samples, we demonstrated that circulating A-FABP levels were significantly increased in obese patients with breast cancer in comparison with those without breast cancer. Circulating A-FABP released by adipose tissue directly targeted mammary tumor cells, enhancing tumor stemness and aggressiveness through activation of the IL-6/STAT3/ALDH1 pathway. Importantly, genetic deletion of A-FABP successfully reduced tumor ALHD1 activation and obesity-associated mammary tumor growth and development in different mouse models. Collectively, these data suggest circulating A-FABP as a new link between obesity and breast cancer risk, thereby revealing A-FABP as a potential new therapeutic target for treatment of obesity-associated cancers. The links between obesity and cancer are not well understood. Hao et al. show that circulating adipose fatty acid binding protein (A-FABP) increases in obesity and promotes breast cancer by increasing mammary tumor stemness and aggressiveness through an IL-6/STAT3/ALDH1 axis. A-FABP could be a potential therapeutic target for obesity-associated cancers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)689-705.e5
JournalCell Metabolism
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 6 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Hyeran Jang from Research Diets for assistance with the design of custom rodent diets. We thank Dr. Adrienne Jordan for advice and interpretation of histopathology. This work was supported by NIH R01CA18098601A1 and NIH R01CA17767901A1 . Microarray assay was performed and analyzed by the Genomics Facility at the University of Louisville, which is supported by NIH P20GM103436 , NIH P30GM106396 , and the J.G. Brown Foundation .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • A-FABP
  • breast cancer development
  • obesity
  • tumor stemness

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


Dive into the research topics of 'Circulating Adipose Fatty Acid Binding Protein Is a New Link Underlying Obesity-Associated Breast/Mammary Tumor Development'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this