Clue to Predicting Breast Cancer Spread
When breast cancer surgeons remove a sentinel lymph node to see if a patients cancer has spread, the subsequent analysis doesnt always provide accurate information. Sometimes nodes (the sentinel lymph node is the first lymph node to which cancer is likely to spread) appear clean of cancer cells, but metastasis still occurs. This predicament has been the subject of research at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Center where researchers have been looking for clues to molecular markers on breast tumors that may better predict which cancers will spread to the lymph node system.
When researchers looked at breast cancer cells and lymph nodes removed from 15 patients whose cancer had spread, they found that the genes in both were altered. "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 [cancer that spreads to the lymph nodes under the arm], we can check for these markers at an early stage of the cancer management, before axillary lymph node metastasis develops" says Luciane Cavalli, PhD, an assistant professor of oncology at Lombardi. "That will give physicians a chance to treat what is otherwise an unseen metastasis."