SCIENTISTS in Bradford are appealing for women to donate breast fluid in a ground-breaking study to potentially speed up breast cancer diagnoses.

Dr Chris Sutton, from the University of Bradford's Institute of Cancer Therapeutics, says the fluid could be a useful tool to help spot diseases such as cancer.

With more samples from volunteers, researchers hope to be able to investigate whether certain proteins present can be used as indicators for breast health issues.

The study, which has been running for 15 months, has collected around 100 fluid samples so far but needs many more, said Dr Sutton.

"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,” he said.

The samples already used in the study have been collected with help from clinicians at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

But, in the coming months, volunteers would be asked to provide the fluid by massage or by using a breast pump in the privacy of their own homes before donating it via the University of Bradford Human Research Tissue Bank, Ethical Tissue.

Dr Sutton said although there were different groups around the world looking at nipple aspirate fluid, the University of Bradford was 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,” he said.

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.

Dr Sue Boyce, Head of Ethical Tissue, hopes the study will also 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.”

Any women aged between 18 and 70 interested in finding out more about volunteering should go to All enquires will be treated in strict confidence.