I hope you are having a lovely summer!

It has been about a week since I returned from my recent trip to China to monitor our Foundation’s study, “The Development of a Breast Fluid Test to Identify Women at Risk for Breast Cancer.” Our goal for this research project is to develop a “home test” that women could use to determine whether they are at risk of developing breast cancer.

In most of the world breast cancer occurs more frequently in premenopausal women.  And most of these women do not have access to screening and diagnostic facilities.  The overall number of cases is not huge, so in most cases finding the women with breast cancer is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. This means that if there were a simple test that a woman could do herself (like a home pregnancy test) to find out whether she was at risk of developing breast cancer, and if she knew that a positive test meant it was worth the effort to obtain additional screening, it could be transformative. 

The test we have developed is a “band-aid” that a woman applies to her nipple. Then, she massages her breast to elicit fluid.  If fluid is expressed, it can be tested to see if it contains certain biomarkers that indicate she is at risk of developing breast cancer.  Since I am impatient, we are not going to follow women for years to determine the test’s accuracy. Instead,  we are going to compare the results of the band-aid to breast density measured on mammogram and other standard risk factors.  And if the band-aid gives us the same information as the other tests, we’ll know that it can be used along with these other tests to assess who is at risk.

We are conducting the study at three sites in Shanghai. Already, we have recruited almost half of the 1000 women aged 35-55 we need for the study.  Right now, we are doing two things: collecting fluid samples on filter paper and storing them in a research freezer, and testing potential markers to determine which ones we should incorporate into our band-aid test.

The first set of potential markers we had identified with our collaborators at MD Anderson Cancer Center have not proven to be as effective as we had hoped, so we are now testing a second group.  It’s a good example of how research works.  Just when you think you have it all worked out you have to go back to the drawing board and research, or search again.  This study, which is funded by the Avon Foundation for Women, may not end up with the perfect test. But when it is over we will certainly be able to say that we attempted the most innovative approach to date for addressing this problem.  Stay tuned for more details!

Also, in other exciting news: The 5th edition of my Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book will be released in October, in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I’ll be going on a book tour to promote my fully updated new book, and hope to see some of you during my travels across the US. More information coming soon!

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One Response to Studying a “Home Test” in China

  1. Anne Vincent says:

    Are these markers that are found in the breast fluid cell markers, or are they other substances produced by duct cells? Do these markers signal the presence of occult/early breast cancer, or signal the presence of the tendency to subsequently develop breast cancer?

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