Table 1.

Comparison of different specimens for studying normal breast

Specimen typeStrengthsLimitations
Surgical resection for cancer, cancer precursorsTissue is abundant and available(i) “Normal” appearing tissues may show field effects or changes secondary to nearby cancer
(ii) Prior biopsy and anesthesia may alter molecular histology
Reduction mammoplastyTissue is abundant and available(i) Biased sample (e.g., young age, obesity)
(ii) Nonstandardized acquisition and processing
Postmortem examination(i) Available(i) Chronic disease and medications may affect tissue
(ii) Can relate breast tissue to other tissue samples and clinical history(ii) Autolysis limiting for molecular studies
Ductal lavage, nipple aspirate, random fine-needle aspirateFresh samples(i) Modest cellularity with limited stroma and tissue architecture
(ii) Special expertise required
(iii) Typically, high-risk women
MilkAvailable fresh(i) Only postpartum women
(ii) Lacks architectural context
(iii) Optimization of collection and fractionation ongoing
The Komen Tissue Bank(i) Fresh samples(i) Samples represent “one moment in time”
(ii) Medical/demographic(ii) Limited amount of tissue
annotation(iii) Variable sample quality
(iii) Derived cell lines
(iv) Matched with blood and blood components