Some years, breakthrough research and landmark presentations are showcased, but this years’ San Antonio conference was pretty tame. Some updates on previously discussed clinical trials, some news on the two drugs for breast cancer that will likely be approved in 2007 (avastin and lapatanib), but no major breakthroughs.
But this one item struck me as fairly interesting….
A company called Veridex has a product called GeneSearch BLN Assay that will improve the accuracy of sentinel node biopsy.
Sentinel lymph node biopsy is a technique that allows localization of the sentinel, or major draining lymph node via an intraoperative technique. Click on the link for an image of a sentinel node biopsy. If the sentinel lymph node has breast cancer cells in it then an axillary dissection is usually warranted. If the sentinel lymph node is free of breast cancer cells than an axillary lymph node dissection can be avoided, sparing you of an increased risk for lymphedema.
During surgery a “frozen section” of the sentinel lymph node can be taken but this was not as accurate as we would like, and many women were found to have a positive lymph node on final pathologic sectioning. In that case a second operation was needed for a “full” axillary lymph node dissection with its psychological trauma and very small anesthesia risks.
With this new technique the lymph node can be more accurately assessed during surgery. The assay looks for several molecular markers (an assay) from the lymph node. If these markers are present than a full axillary lymph node dissection can be done in the same operation.
The ability to detect a positive sentinel lymph node increased from 54.5% with frozen section to 81.8% with the assay – an improvement of 50%. Not bad.
The FDA is making a final decision on the Veridex GeneSearch Assay, but it appears likely that they will approve this promising technique.