Breast fluid a better option for detecting cancer

RICHLAND, Wash. - A new method of extracting and analyzing fluid from a woman's breast may provide a more accurate, less expensive and noninvasive way to determine a patient's risk for breast cancer or to diagnose the disease in its early stages.

In a paper published in the July 3 issue of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, Battelle scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and researchers at University of California, Los Angeles report they have discovered six times more proteins than previously identified in this fluid, called nipple aspirate fluid, or NAF. The presence of such proteins suggests that NAF could be a resource for biomarkers, or biological indicators, of breast cancer, which is expected to claim the lives of approximately 40,000 American women this year.

"We believe this fluid could be the best alternative for discovering biomarkers for early-stage breast cancer," said Rick Zangar, a Battelle principal investigator at PNNL. "With further analysis, we could detect up to 10 times more proteins in NAF. The more proteins we identify, the better chance there is to find one that is linked to breast cancer."

Proteins can serve as biomarkers of disease. When cancerous cells begin to develop, they create their own proteins that, if detected in NAF, could indicate the presence or risk of breast cancer. Current methods for screening include breast self-exams and mammograms, which are physical exams compared with the molecular approach at PNNL.

NAF is continuously secreted and reabsorbed in breasts of women who aren't pregnant or lactating. It is generated from cells lining the ducts that form a network throughout the breast, the same network that provides milk in a lactating woman. These ductal cells are the source of 70 to 80 percent of breast cancer.

"NAF offers a unique window through which we can monitor the processes occurring inside the breast ductal system," Zangar said

Contact: Staci Maloof
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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