Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer generally have two options for treatment. If the cancer is detected early, surgery can be curative but if it has spread to the lymph nodes then the treatment options are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and a bunch of other anti-hormonal drugs.
Now, researchers at Johns Hopkins have come up with a novel way to treat breast cancer -- the potent drugs can be delivered to the breast tissue via the nipple. After studying this form of treatment in animal models, researchers at the famed hospital say the treatment is effective with no major side effects.
These researchers claim that administering potent drugs to the breast ducts via the nipple allows the drug to go directly to the cancer in much higher concentrations without any adverse effects on the rest of the body.
The reasoning behind this form of treatment is that the majority of breast cancers originate from cells lining the milk ducts. Thus, early or preventive treatment can be delivered to the ducts via the nipple.
The initial studies using non-drug formulas in a few women awaiting breast cancer surgery showed that the drug could indeed be delivered to the breast in higher concentrations without complications. The animal studies conducted revealed that the potent medications did suppress breast tumors without adverse effects.
The study, led by doctors Sukumar and Stearns of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, has received favorable reviews from other breast experts. The next series of tests are to be conducted in women with high genetic risk for breast cancer and determine if cancer can be prevented. The researchers claim that if successful in preventing cancer, such injections could be administered every ten years and keep the breast free of cancers. (1)
While this is a great alternative to surgery, there remains more work to be done. Administering potent chemotherapeutic drugs via peripheral veins can cause severe irritation, pain, and fibrosis. Whether the same adverse effects will be observed when administering the drugs via the nipple remains to be seen.
Mammary ductoscopy via the nipple is another novel technique that is being developed to destroy certain cancer using lasers and microscopic surgery. (2)
Finally, the nipple is a very fragile and delicate anatomical organ. it is exquisitely sensitive to pain and whether this form of therapy will become a reality in future still remains to be seen.
1.Stearns at el. Preclinical and clinical evaluation of intraductallly administer agent s in early cancer. Sci Transl Med 26 October 2011:
Vol. 3, Issue 106, p. 106ra108. Abstract: http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/3/106/106ra108
2. Tsang et al. Mammary ductoscopy in the current management of breast disease
Surg Endosc. 2011 Jun;25(6):1712-22. Epub 2010 Dec 18. Abstract:
Reviewed October 30, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Malu Banuelos
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