Hypertension and breast cancer - research team discovers clear connection

Protein identified that can be a risk factor for high blood pressure and breast cancer

It has long been known that women with high blood pressure are at higher risk for breast cancer than women with normal blood pressure. Researchers have now identified a protein that can be a risk factor for hypertension as well as breast cancer.

Previous studies have shown that women with high blood pressure are about 15 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than women with normal blood pressure. As reported by the American Heart Association (AHA) on its website, high concentrations of the GRK4 protein (G-protein-coupled receptor kinase 4) have been shown to cause high blood pressure (hypertension). The new study, published in the journal "Hypertension", showed that the GRK4 protein was present in breast cancer cells, but not in normal breast cells.

Breast cancer risk increased in hypertensive women

"Cancer and high blood pressure share common risk factors," said study leader Dr. Wei Yue from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville. “Our laboratory's previous research into GRK4 showed that it is regulated by an oncogene called c-Myc, which is involved in many cancers, including breast cancer. This led to the hypothesis that GRK4 could be a link. ”

Almost half of all adults with high blood pressure are women. After the age of 65, women are more likely than men to have high blood pressure. Pregnancy, birth control pills and menopause can increase the risk of hypertension. If left untreated, the condition can cause health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and vision loss.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second leading cause of cancer death. "While previous studies have shown that breast cancer risk is increased in hypertensive women, this study complements current knowledge by providing the molecular mechanisms underlying this association," said Dr. Vesna D. Garovic, chair of the Department of Nephrology and Hypertension Research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Drug used to treat high blood pressure and breast cancer

Garovic, who was not involved in the new research, said studies like this, which identify the molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways that cause disease to develop, could provide new insights into treatment options.

Not all breast tumors are the same. The study looked for GRK4 in two specific types of breast cancer that are termed hormone sensitive and triple negative. "Our conclusion may not apply to other types of breast cancer," said Yue.

GRK4 is one of seven GRK proteins. Other studies have looked at GRK2 and GRK5 in various cancers, but Yue said her group was the first to look for a link between GRK4, high blood pressure, and breast cancer. "Nobody else is working on it," she said.

According to Yue, this molecule is unique in that it is not normally expressed in breast tissues - meaning that it is made into a protein by a gene - making it a potential drug development target. "A drug that targets GRK4 could potentially be used to treat patients with high blood pressure and breast cancer." (Ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • American Heart Association: Scientists find biological link between high blood pressure and breast cancer, (accessed: 09.09.2019), American Heart Association
  • Hypertension: Abstract P2043: Role of GRK4, a Risk Factor for Hypertension, in Breast Cancer, (accessed: 09.09.2019), Hypertension

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