Digital image analysis of breast epithelial cells collected by random periareolar fine-needle aspirates (RPFNA) from women at high risk for breast cancer taking hormone replacement and the aromatase inhibitor, letrozole, for six months
The ideal chemopreventive agent targets pre-neoplastic changes and intraepithelial neoplasia, preventing progression over time without notable side effects. Assessment of success of chemopreventive intervention in the short and medium term remains a challenge, and in this review the suggestion is investigated that karyometric measurements constitute suitable markers of chemopreventive efficacy. Karyometry provides the sensitivity required to detect small differences amidst relatively high biological variability. It can help establish progression curves of intraepithelial neoplasia (IEN) to invasive cancer, and thus detect chemopreventive effects. Such effects can be observed in two ways, at the group level (intervention vs. placebo), and at the case (or patient) level. The latter is more difficult to establish, necessitating the development of specialised statistical methods. Analysis of between-case and within-case heterogeneity can reveal useful information about cancer progression and prevention. We suggest that karyometry can objectively quantify IEN progression, providing a framework for statistically securing chemopreventive effects. It can act as an integrating biomarker by detecting chemopreventive activity even when the mechanism for a given progression pathway is unknown, or when multiple pathways exist. The sensitivity of karyometric detection can help optimise the design of clinical trials of novel chemopreventive agents by decreasing trial duration and/or sample size.