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Can breast milk help in early detection of breast cancer? Know what researchers say

Breast milk may help diagnose breast cancer in women. A recent study demonstrated that liquid biopsy in breast milk can detect circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) before traditional imaging can diagnose breast cancer. Cancer Discovery reports that it may be a novel technique for postpartum breast cancer diagnosis.

For the first time, Spanish researchers found tumor DNA in breast milk from breast cancer patients, which may aid early detection of the most frequent malignancy in women.  

Before traditional imaging can diagnose breast cancer, liquid biopsy in breast milk can detect circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA). Cancer Discovery reports that it may be a novel technique for postpartum breast cancer diagnosis.

Researchers at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Spain released the findings after a breast cancer patient diagnosed while pregnant with her third daughter raised concerns about her tumor being conveyed to her second daughter through breast milk.

“The patient brought us frozen breast milk. Dr. Cristina Saura, head of the Breast Cancer Group at the university’s Institute of Oncology (VHIO), said that due to her, we began our project by analyzing breast milk for markers.

The patient’s breast milk had DNA with the same mutation as her tumor. She said that the patient’s breast milk was frozen over a year before cancer diagnosis.

Next, the researchers collected breast milk and blood from 15 pregnant or postpartum breast cancer patients and healthy breastfeeding mothers. Using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) with Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR).

There was free circulating tumor DNA in breast milk. We found breast cancer tumor mutations in 13 of 15 patients’ breast milk samples. Dr. Ana Vivancos, chief of VHIO’s Genomics laboratory, claimed that one blood sample had ctDNA.

The researchers also created an NGS-based genetic panel for breast cancer early detection. The researchers created the VHIO-YWBC gene panel to detect the most common mutations in women diagnosed with breast cancer before 45 using publically available data.

Panel sensitivity exceeds 70%. This panel would have detected 7 out of 10 patient samples with 100% specificity.”

Dr. Saura says this panel could improve postpartum breast cancer diagnosis. “Just like all newborns get a heel prick, all women after birth could get a breast milk sample for breast cancer screening.”

Conclusion:-

Breast milk from breast cancer patients includes tumor DNA, which could help detect the most frequent cancer in women worldwide, according to a Cancer Discovery study. After a breast cancer patient told researchers at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Spain that her tumor could spread through her breast milk to her second daughter, they undertook the study. The researchers collected breast milk and blood from 15 pregnant or postpartum breast cancer patients and healthy breastfeeding mothers. Using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) and Droplet Digital PCR (ddPCR), the researchers revealed free circulating tumor DNA in breast milk and detected alterations in 13 of 15 breast cancer patients’ tumors. The researchers created an NGS-based genomic panel to detect the most common mutations in pre-45 breast cancer patients. With a sensitivity of about 70%, the panel can detect 7 out of 10 cases with 100% specificity. In the future, this panel could detect postpartum breast cancer early.

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