Examination of Duct Physiology in the Human Mammary Gland

Mills, Dixie; Gomberawalla, Ameer; Gordon, Eva J.; Tondre, Julie; Nejad, Mitra; Nguyen, Tinh; Pogoda, Janice M.; Rao, Jianyu; Chatterton, Robert; Henning, Susanne; Love, Susan M.

The human breast comprise several ductal systems, or lobes, which contain a small amount of fluid containing cells, hormones, proteins and metabolites. The complex physiology of these ducts is likely a contributing factor to the development of breast cancer, especially given that the vast majority of breast cancers begin in a single lobular unit.

We examined the levels of total protein, progesterone, estradiol, estrone sulfate, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, and macrophages in ductal fluid samples obtained from 3 ducts each in 78 women, sampled twice over a 6 month period. Samples were processed for both cytological and molecular analysis. Intraclass correlation coefficients and mixed models were utilized to identify significant data.

We found that the levels of these ductal fluid components were generally uncorrelated among ducts within a single breast and over time, suggesting that each lobe within the breast has a distinct physiology. However, we also found that estradiol was more correlated in women who were nulliparous or produced nipple aspirate fluid.

Our results provide evidence that the microenvironment of any given lobular unit is unique to that individual unit, findings that may provide clues about the initiation and development of ductal carcinomas.


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May 25, 2016