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Bradford scientists call on volunteers to help in the fight against breast cancer


Scientists at the University of Bradford are appealing for women to donate fluid from their breasts in a ground-breaking study that has the potential to speed up breast cancer diagnoses.

The fluid, known at nipple aspirate fluid, may be a useful tool in determining breast health and detecting diseases such as breast cancer, alongside the traditional mammograms and biopsies.

The study, which has been running for 15 months, has so far collected around 100 fluid samples, but many more are needed to fully understand whether certain markers found in the sample can relate to breast health.

, from the , explaining how the samples can be used, said: “The study is in its early stages, but with more samples we hope to be able to investigate whether proteins present in the fluid can be used as indicators for breast health issues. We are not suggesting this would replace the traditional mammograms in cancer screening, but it has the potential to alert women to changes in their breasts that they may need to investigate at an earlier stage than more traditional checks may.”

To date, samples have been collected in collaboration with clinicians at the Bradford Royal Infirmary, but in the coming months volunteers are being sought to provide fluid by massage or by use of a breast pump in the privacy of their own home. These samples can then be donated to the study through the University of Bradford Human Research Tissue Bank, Ethical Tissue.

Although there are different groups around the world looking at nipple aspirate fluid, the University of Bradford is unique in using new techniques to detect changes in breast health.

“We have fantastic support from breast cancer patients and clinicians at Bradford Royal Infirmary providing samples, but we also need many samples from healthy volunteers. Our ultimate goal is to have a group of women who can provide samples over time that can tell us about modifications in normal breast physiology, as well as relating to disease. Collecting the fluid from both nipples, along with information on the patient’s history, enables us to build a comprehensive bank of samples,” said Dr Sutton.

Mr Mohamed Salhab, Lead Oncoplastic Surgeon at Bradford Royal Infirmary, added: “Mammography is a sensitive method for early detection of breast cancer but it has limitations, especially in younger patients. In addition, mammography cannot determine if a growth is harmless or dangerous without further imaging and examination. Looking for markers of the disease in nipple aspirate fluid may provide an important additional test.”

Dr Sutton and his team will use a specialist piece of equipment called a mass spectrometer, which was purchased through the Bradford Crocus Cancer appeal, to help analyse the samples.

Head of Ethical Tissue, Dr Sue Boyce hopes the study will not only collect samples for analysis, but will encourage women to talk more openly about breast health and challenge any existing taboos on the subject. “It’s important that women feel comfortable talking about any health issues they may be concerned about with family, friends and their doctors.”

Women interested in contributing to the study should contact and a member of the team will provide information about the next steps. All enquires will be treated in strict confidence.

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