UMass Breastmilk Lab

Are you breastfeeding and have a mutation in a BRCA Gene?

Please consider donating milk if you have a BRCA mutation & are breastfeeding

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst are looking for breastfeeding mothers who have tested positive for a BRCA mutation and are willing to donate a breast-milk sample. share breast milk breast cancer studies

What will participants have to do as breast-milk donors?

You will be asked to complete an informed consent document, a questionnaire, and to send us a copy of your BRCA test results. Then you will need to provide milk and saliva samples.  Each participant will receive $50.

How is your privacy protected?

Every effort will be made to protect your privacy. Your name will not be used in any of the research reports or publications prepared with results obtained from this study. All information obtained in this study that identifies who you are will be recorded with a code number, and all studies are approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the University of Massachusetts.

What is the study for? Overview:

The study relates to assessing risk and predicting the development of breast cancer in women with problem familial BRCA-gene mutations.  Pathogenic BRCA mutations put women at risk for multiple cancer types but especially breast and ovarian.  There is gene-testing for mutations in BRCA 1&2 which is intended to help women take steps to minimize their cancer risk.  We are initially recruiting women who already have done the gene testing and know they have a bad copy of one of the genes.

What is the study for? More detail:

We are initially looking at the DNA of epithelial cells from the breast that are always present in human milk.  We are assessing the levels of accumulating mutations in cancer-related genes and changes in DNA methylation.  We already have evidence of changes in milk cell DNA methylation that are linked to breast cancer risk and can see mutations in the milk of a small group of women who were lactating when they were diagnosed with breast cancer. Click to see a more detailed summary of our project and the researchers.

How is the project supported?

We currently support sample collection, under our UMass IRB protocol, using internal funds and building on a decade of interaction with nursing moms in multiple studies.  You can read about our pending funding (2020-22) from the Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.  Support in that program will come from appropriated Federal funds and from the USPS breast cancer stamps.

Contact after the initial enrollment and sample donation

We intend to follow up with participants annually but women are free to un-enroll at any time.  Kathleen has follow-up that is over a dozen-years with women who joined earlier studies that involved nursing moms. We are working to put out a project newsletter that participants can access to learn how the project is progressing.

Want to know more?

Please consider joining our program and helping the research. We have a page that describes our donation process and the shipping system that works for the lower 48 States. There is a BRCA project facebook page. You can reach Dr. Kathleen Arcaro by telephone: (413) 545-0813 or by email:
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