Consumption of walnuts has slowed breast cancer growth and/or reduced the risk of mammary cancer in mice. The benefit against cancer was associated with altered expression of genes for cancer growth and survival. We hypothesized that walnut consumption would alter gene expression in pathologically confirmed breast cancers of women in a direction that would be expected to decrease breast cancer growth and survival, as was seen in mice. The study was a nonplacebo, 2-arm, clinical trial. Women with breast lumps large enough for research and pathology biopsies were recruited and randomized to walnut consuming or control groups. Immediately after biopsy collection, women in the walnut group began to consume 2 oz of walnuts per day until follow-up surgery. Pathological studies confirmed that lumps were breast cancer in all women who remained in the trial. At surgery, about 2 weeks after biopsy, additional specimens were taken from the breast cancers. Changes in gene expression in the surgical specimen compared to baseline were determined in each individual woman in walnut-consuming (n = 5) and control (n = 5) groups. RNA sequencing expression profiling revealed that expression of 456 identified genes was significantly changed in the tumor due to walnut consumption. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis showed activation of pathways that promote apoptosis and cell adhesion, and inhibition of pathways that promote cell proliferation and migration. These results support the hypothesis that, in humans, walnut consumption could suppress growth and survival of breast cancers.

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