Breast Ductal Lavage for Assessment of Breast Cancer Biomarkers

Robert Treat Chatterton, Noah P. Parker, Mito Habe-Evans, Michele Bryk, Denise M. Scholtens, Seema A. Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Lavage of the ductal systems of the breast provides fluid (ductal lavage fluid, DLF) containing hormones and products of hormone actions that may represent more accurately the composition of the breast than samples collected from blood or urine. The present study was undertaken to assess the presence of potential cancer biomarkers, their variation among individuals at high risk for breast cancer, and differences associated with menopause and tamoxifen treatment. Seventy seven tamoxifen-eligible subjects with a 5-year breast cancer risk estimate (Gail > 1.6%; N = 53) or recently diagnosed breast cancer (N = 24) were offered tamoxifen therapy; those not accepting tamoxifen were under observation only. After 6 months, all subjects underwent ductal lavage (DL) in an unaffected breast. Estradiol (E2), estrone sulfate, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA sulfate, progesterone, cathepsin D, and epidermal growth factor (EGF) were measured in ductal lavage fluid (DLF) by immunoassays. Data were expressed as the mass of analyte per milligram of protein in DLF and normalized by natural log transformation. With the exception of DHEA, none of the analytes measured were significantly lower in postmenopausal women than in premenopausal women. The mean log e concentration difference in estradiol was 10.9%. Tamoxifen treatment for 6 months did not result in a significantly greater concentration of E2 or in any of the other analytes in DLF of pre- or postmenopausal women. The between-duct variance of the concentration of free steroids within the same breast averaged 51% less than that between subjects, and was similar to that of non-diffusible proteins. The maintenance of estradiol concentrations in the breast after menopause demonstrates the importance of local biosynthesis. The fact that DLF E2 does not reflect the high serum concentrations of E2 during tamoxifen treatment indicates that breast concentrations of estradiol may be under feedback control. Unlike studies of low risk populations, progesterone concentrations were not significantly less in postmenopausal than in premenopausal women. The similarity in variance of free steroids and protein analytes between ducts of a breast indicates little transfer of steroids between lobules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-204
Number of pages8
JournalHormones and Cancer
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Breast
  • Cancer
  • Hormones
  • Lavage
  • Risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Endocrinology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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