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New Cancer Treatment Targets Breast Ducts

The novel approach could be easier on patients, researchers say

FRIDAY, Feb. 3, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Delivering chemotherapy drugs directly to breast ducts might make early breast cancer treatment easier on patients and could be as effective as radiation or surgery, animal studies suggest.

Those findings, published recently in Cancer Research, have led the way to the first preliminary clinical trials of this approach -- called intraductal therapy -- in women with breast cancer scheduled for mastectomy at Johns Hopkins University's Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore.

The method uses hair-thin catheters to inject chemotherapy through openings at the nipple directly into the milk ducts. Because early breast cancers are less likely to have moved from the ducts (where breast cancers originate), intraductal therapy may have at least as good a chance of curing the disease as surgery or radiation, explained researcher Saraswati Sukumar, a professor of oncology at the Kimmel Cancer Center.

"We'd like to develop a treatment option for early breast cancers that minimizes disfigurement and spares normal tissue," Sukumar said in a prepared statement.

"We found that, in animal models, injecting chemotherapy into the milk ducts confines most of the drug to the breasts, leaving other tissues unharmed," she said.

Sukumar also believes that injecting chemotherapy or preventative drugs such as tamoxifen into the breast ducts may help protect women at high risk for breast cancer.

Phase I studies are now underway to determine the feasibility and safety of intraductal therapy in breast cancer patients, including potential side effects such as pain, inflammation and changes in the structure of the duct network.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer treatments.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, news release, Jan. 25, 2006
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