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Routine breast cancer biopsy might predict lymph node cancer spread
Date:4/18/2010

Washington, DC Predicting breast cancer spread from a sentinel lymph node removed during surgery is a hit or miss affair, say researchers: there are still many false negatives, which means the node, when analyzed under a microscope, appears clean of cancer cells, but metastasis can still occur in the patient. The sentinel node is the first lymph node in the axilla that cancer spreads to.

Now, researchers from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Center say that they have clues to molecular markers on breast tumors that may predict which cancers will metastasize to the lymph node system. Details of the study will be presented at the AACR 101st Annual Meeting 2010.

In a pilot study comparing genomic alterations in both breast cancer cells and sentinel lymph nodes removed from 15 patients whose cancer spread to the lymph nodes, researchers found genes that were altered (amplified or deleted) in both samples. These alterations affected genes that function as either oncogenes or tumor suppressors. The final goal is to be able to identify, at the time of the diagnosis, when a patient has a routine biopsy of their tumor, who is at higher risk for development of lymph node metastasis, says Luciane Cavalli, PhD, an assistant professor of oncology at Lombardi.

"To our knowledge, very few studies have looked specifically for genomic alterations in sentinel nodes in comparison to the primary tumor from the same patient. If we find markers that can be significantly associated with patients that develop axillary metastasis, we can check for these markers at an early stage of the cancer management, before axillary lymph node metastasis develops" says Cavalli. "That will give physicians a chance to treat what is otherwise an unseen metastasis."

Currently, a sentinel lymph node is removed when a patient undergoes surgery to remove breast tumors, and the node is examined for evidence of cancer cells while the operation is in progress. If the
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Contact: Karen Mallet
km463@georgetown.edu
215-514-9751
Georgetown University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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