BALTIMORE, Md (WUSA) -- If most breast cancers start in the milk ducts, why not go to the source to treat the disease?
That's what Dr. Sara Sukumar, co-director of the breast cancer program at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, is doing. She's developed a new way to treat and possibly prevent breast cancer by delivering chemotherapy directly to the breast "plumbing," those milk ducts.
"It's akin to putting Drano down the tubing so that everything gets cleaned out, so when everything gets cleaned out there's no cancer and you get to keep your breast," Dr. Sukumar says.
Chemotherapy is injected using hair thin catheters through openings at the nipple directly into the milk ducks, which looks like a tree branch inside the breast. The chemo destroys cancer cells or early stage cancers that are invisible by mammography, all without toxic side effects.
Dr. Sukumar shares, "When we injected these agents, we found that many of them were protected from getting cancers later or whereas those who received the same drugs intravenously all succumbed to their tumors."
Those results were from animal models. Dr. Sukumar's colleague Medical oncologist Dr. Vered Stearns, supervised the study on seventeen women with breast cancer who were scheduled to have a mastectomy. In this trial, the nipple therapy was used to determine how well the procedure was tolerated, not specifically to treat their cancers.
"The women were able to tolerate it with minimal side effects. The common complaints were fullness in the breast and what they describe as discomfort but not pain and always rated this lower than mammogram associated discomfort," Dr. Stearns says.
Practical applications are still 5-10 years away, but the findings could represent a game changer when it comes to treating breast cancer.
Dr. Sukumar also tells us "This might be a new way that we treat early lesions such as Ductal Carcinoma in Situ as well as prevent breast cancer in the long term. Ultimately, prevention is the name of the game. It's only by prevention that we'll be able to eradicate this terrible disease."
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