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Rapid, painless test for breast cancer

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA. The standard screening for breast cancer involves physical examination and mammography. Mammography is notoriously unreliable and often results in unnecessary biopsies and much anxiety. Researchers at the Thomas Jefferson University now report the preliminary results of a new rapid, accurate, non-invasive, painless breast cancer screening test. The test involves collecting a very small amount of breast nipple fluid (1 microliter) with an ordinary breast pump and then analyzing its protein content using the SELDI (surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization time of flight-mass spectrometry) technique.

The researchers tested the procedure on 20 women with breast cancer and 13 healthy controls. They found that the women with breast cancer excreted five proteins that were not excreted, or excreted in miniscule amounts, by the healthy women. Thus a protein with a molecular mass of 6500 Da was found in 75 per cent of the women with breast cancer, but not in a single one without. Similarly a protein with a molecular mass of 15940 Da was found in 80 per cent of the women with breast cancer, but not in any of the healthy women. The researchers conclude that the new technique may materially aid in detecting breast cancer in its earliest stages.
Sauter, E.R., et al. Proteomic analysis of nipple aspirate fluid to detect biologic markers of breast cancer. British Journal of Cancer, Vol. 86, May 6, 2002, pp. 1440-43

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