Clinical outcomes suggest that postoncologic reconstruction with fat grafting yields cumulative incidence curves of recurrence comparable to those of other breast reconstruction procedures; however, results from experimental research studies suggest that adipose stem cells can stimulate cancer growth. In this study, a novel animal model of residual cancer was developed in mouse mammary pads to test whether lipofilling impacts the probability of locoregional recurrence of breast cancer after breast conserving surgery.
Mammary fat pads of female NOD-SCID gamma mice were each injected with MCF-7 cells in Matrigel. Tumors were allowed to engraft for 2 weeks, after which time either sterile saline (n = 20) or human fat graft (n = 20) was injected adjacent to tumor sites. After 8 weeks, tumors were assessed for volume measurement, histologic grade, Ki67 positivity, and metastatic spread.
Animals receiving lipofilling after tumor cell engraftment had lower tumor volume and mass (p = 0.046 and p = 0.038, respectively). Macroscopic invasion was higher in the saline group. Histologic grade was not significantly different in the two groups (p = 0.17). Ki67 proliferation index was lower in tumors surrounded by fat graft (p = 0.01). No metastatic lesion was identified in any animal.
Adipose transfer for breast reconstruction performed in the setting of residual breast tumor in a clinically relevant animal model did not increase tumor size, proliferation, histologic grade, or metastatic spread. This study supports the oncologic safety of lipofilling as part of the surgical platform for breast reconstruction after cancer therapy.