Background: Early detection of breast carcinoma enhances the chances for patient survival. The authors' work focused on an innovative technique that couples breast ductal lavage (DL) with surface-enhanced laser desorption and ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (SELDI-TOF MS) to yield a highly sensitive and specific method of breast carcinoma detection.
Methods: The study group included 16 women who had unilateral, biopsy-proven breast carcinoma. Studying paired DL specimens from each woman (the breast with and the breast without carcinoma), a cytologic investigation was performed on the cells present in the DL samples, and the protein content of the DL fluid was analyzed with the SELDI-TOF MS technique using the strong anionic exchange chip surface.
Results: Only 5 of 16 DL specimens (31%) from breasts with biopsy-proven carcinoma contained malignant cells, whereas the remaining samples contained only histiocytes and clusters of benign ductal epithelium. In contrast, 12 of 16 DL specimens (75%) from breasts that contained carcinoma had a different protein peak pattern compared with the paired DL specimen from the same patient's contralateral, uninvolved breast. This finding was independent of the presence of neoplastic cells in the lavage fluid. In addition, specific protein peaks, which may represent potential biomarkers, were identified in the DL fluids from breasts with carcinoma. Some of these peaks were conserved between different patients.
Conclusions: The combination of breast DL with SELDI-TOF MS offers a unique and powerful technique for the detection and monitoring of breast carcinoma. This method has the potential to enhance the diagnostic utility of conventional DL cytology.