The problem with original research is that you don’t know what you are going to find. I guess that is why you have to keep “re”searching! We are excited to tell you that our mapping the anatomy of the breast study is moving ahead. We are still working on the best ultrasound approach to use to study lactating women. We tried two machines and learned that not all the ducts are making milk until 6-9 months. This time with a new machine, Sonocine, we studied women who had been breastfeeding for a long time to see if that would give us adequate images. We are working on analyzing the images with our colleague, Dr. Mark Haynes, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Think about a mountain with 6-8 tortuous streams running down from the peak. Plus it is not clear that the ducts are completely filled with milk. Nevertheless, we are persisting and determined to deliver a map of the common distribution of ducts. This map will help surgeons identify the areas of the breast affected by ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and direct surgery on patients in the future. Hint: the ducts are not like segments of an orange nor are they in quadrants!
Once we determine the right machine that is best for producing images that visualize the ducts, as well as the ideal state of the lactating breast for imaging, i.e. full, empty, or in between, we will open large-scale recruitment to enroll up to 250 lactating women to undergo whole breast ultrasound and make a 3-D map of the breast duct system. Then we will have the ability to know which duct is involved in DCIS and how to best locally deal with it. Stay tuned.