Exploring the link between obesity and endometrial cancer

This project will investigate the biological processes behind the link between obesity and endometrial cancer. We hope that these findings will have implications for understanding the process of obesity-related cancer developing.

  • Topic: Endometrial cancer
  • Institution: International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
  • Country: France
  • Status: Ongoing
Researcher: Laure Dossus

Our project aims at identifying novel mechanisms underlying the association between obesity and endometrial cancer by probing immune pathways captured by a state-of-the-art proteomics panel. We will also assess the impact of weight loss on cancer-related mechanisms. – Dr Laure Dossus

Grant title

Obesity and endometrial cancer: integrative molecular tools to identify the underlying causal pathways


Endometrial cancer is the most diagnosed cancer of the reproductive system of women and girls in developed countries. Obesity has been shown to be a major risk factor for endometrial cancer and is responsible for at least 60% of the cases. The biological process behind the link between obesity and endometrial cancer is not fully understood and the impact of intentional weight loss on this remains to be found.

Previous studies have shown that changes in metabolism and hormones could partly explain the link between endometrial cancer and obesity. However, there were limitations to these studies including the small number of patients and factors such as immunity not being investigated.

The role of the immune system in increasing tumour growth is now well recognized. There are lots of immune cells in fat-storing body tissue. These observations have prompted an increased interest in the interplay between immune cells, metabolism and cancer.

Aims and objectives

The main objectives of our project are:

  1. To identify new mechanisms underlying the link between obesity and endometrial cancer.
  2. To assess the impact of weight loss on cancer-related biological processes.

How it will be done

The study will be performed in two complementary populations. We will select pre-diagnostic blood samples from approximately 600 endometrial cancer cases and 600 cancer-free participants from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort.

We will also use blood and endometrial tissue samples collected from 50 women who underwent weight loss surgery. Using these samples, we will evaluate the association between markers of immunity and the risk of developing endometrial cancer. We will also evaluate whether these markers of immunity change with weight gain or loss.

Potential impact

Our results will have an impact beyond endometrial cancer as we will also explore whether weight change has any effect on the process of cancer development. If these results are significant, these processes can be targeted by prevention strategies that might also be applicable to other obesity-related cancers.