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Breast ducts: A new site for cancer treatment?

Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers are studying whether delivering chemotherapy drugs directly to breast "plumbing" might make treatment of early breast cancer easier on the patient and at least as good as surgery or radiation.

A report on successful tests of intraductal therapy in rats and mice published in the January 15 issue of Cancer Research has paved the way for one of the first preliminary clinical trials in women with breast cancer, currently under way in women with breast cancer scheduled for a mastectomy at Johns Hopkins.

For more than a decade, researchers have been studying how to diagnose breast cancer earlier by extracting fluid from the vast network of tiny milking-producing ducts in the breast. The idea is based on the finding that most breast cancers sprout from cells lining the milk ducts. This same idea led Kimmel Cancer Center researcher Saraswati Sukumar, Ph.D., to explore the possibility of treating early breast cancers by using hair-thin catheters to inject chemotherapy through openings at the nipple directly into the place where they started - the milk ducts.

Sukumar likens the procedure to pouring detergent down the kitchen sink to rid the pipes of unwanted material. Because early breast cancers are less likely to have escaped the ducts, intraductal therapy may have at least as good a chance to cure as radiation or surgery.

"We'd like to develop a treatment option for early breast cancers that minimizes disfigurement and spares normal tissues," says Sukumar who is the Barbara B. Rubenstein Professor of Oncology at Hopkins' Kimmel Cancer Center.

Standard treatments for early breast cancer, called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), include radiation and surgery to remove the tumor via a lumpectomy or mastectomy. Chemotherapy, reserved for disease that has spread beyond the ducts, is not typically used to treat DCIS because conventional methods of delivering the drugs through an arm or ches
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Contact: Vanessa Wasta
wastava@jhmi.edu
410-614-2916
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
25-Jan-2006


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