Targeted Axillary Dissection of Lymph Nodes after Chemotherapy Improves Staging Accuracy of Node-Positive Breast Cancer

“A new procedure developed by surgeons at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center improves the accuracy of axillary staging and pathologic evaluation in clinically node-positive breast cancer, and reduces the need for a more invasive procedure with debilitating complications.

“The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, has changed treatment guidelines at the institution for a select group of breast cancer patients with lymph node metastasis, who will now receive Targeted Axillary Dissection (TAD).

“The TAD procedure involves removing sentinel lymph nodes, as well as additional cancerous lymph nodes found during diagnosis. At the time of diagnosis, those select nodes are clipped for identification during later surgery.”


New Blood Tests, Liquid Biopsies, May Transform Cancer Care

“A new type of blood test is starting to transform cancer treatment, sparing some patients the surgical and needle biopsies long needed to guide their care.

“The tests, called liquid biopsies, capture cancer cells or DNA that tumors shed into the blood, instead of taking tissue from the tumor itself. A lot is still unknown about the value of these tests, but many doctors think they are a big advance that could make personalized medicine possible for far more people.

“They give the first noninvasive way to repeatedly sample a cancer so doctors can profile its genes, target drugs to mutations, tell quickly whether treatment is working, and adjust it as the cancer evolves.

“Two years ago, these tests were rarely used except in research. Now, several are sold, more than a dozen are in development, and some doctors are using them in routine care.”


Ultrasound May Lead to Less Invasive Surgery in Lymph Node-Positive Breast Cancer

“Women with lymph node-positive breast cancer who demonstrate complete nodal response by axillary ultrasound after neoadjuvant chemotherapy may be able to avoid axillary dissection, according to study results.

“ ‘Our goal here is really to try to get away from, “Every patient with breast cancer needs these drugs and this amount of chemotherapy and surgery,” and instead to personalize surgical treatment based on how the patient responds to chemotherapy,’ Judy Boughey, MD, chair of the division of surgery research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said in a press release.

“The American College of Surgeons Oncology Group (ACOSOG) Z1071 trial included 687 patients with T0-4, N1-2, M0 primary invasive breast cancer. All patients completed neoadjuvant chemotherapy, underwent sentinel lymph node surgery and axillary dissection, and had axillary ultrasound images available for review.

“Previously published results indicated a 12.6% false-negative rate for sentinel lymph node surgery after neoadjuvant chemotherapy for patients who presented with node-positive disease and had two or more sentinel lymph nodes identified and removed. This false-negative rate exceeded the predetermined acceptable rate of 10%. The result suggested patient selection or technique must be improved prior to widespread adoption of sentinel lymph node surgery in this setting, according to study background…

“ ‘That’s one of the really nice things about giving chemotherapy up front,’ Boughey said. ‘It allows us to be less invasive with surgery, both in terms of breast surgery and lymph node surgery, and to tailor treatment based on response to chemotherapy.’ “


Circulating Tumor Cells Provide Genomic Snapshot of Breast Cancer

“The genetic fingerprint of a metastatic cancer is constantly changing, which means that the therapy that may have stopped a patient’s cancer growth today, won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Although doctors can continue to biopsy the cancer during the course of the treatment and send samples for genomic analysis, not all patients can receive repeat biopsies. Taking biopsies from metastatic cancer patients is an invasive procedure that it is frequently impossible due to the lack of accessible lesions. Research published October 10th in the journal Breast Cancer Research suggest that tumor cells circulating in the blood of metastatic patients could give as accurate a genomic read-out as tumor biopsies.

“Counting the number of circulating (CTCs) can tell us whether a patient’s cancer is aggressive, or whether it is stable and responding to therapy,” says the article’s first author Sandra V. Fernandez, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medical Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University. “Our work suggests that these in the blood also accurately reflect the genetic status of the parent tumor or its metastases, potentially giving us a new and easy to source of genomic information to guide treatment.”


Surgical Biopsy Proves Safe for Selected Late-Stage Lung Cancer Patients

“Researchers at UC Davis have determined that surgical biopsies can be safely performed on select patients with late-stage non-small cell lung cancer, which should enhance their access to drugs that target specific genetic mutations such as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR).

“The findings, published in the July issue of The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, address a common problem in treatment for advanced lung cancer: insufficient tumor tissue available for molecular analysis, which is required before prescribing targeted therapy.”

Editor’s note: A surgical biopsy (removal of a small sample of a tumor) can be used by a doctor to figure out if a patient’s tumor has certain genetic mutations. A tumor’s genetic mutations can help determine which treatments are most likely to work. Some doctors are reluctant to take surgical biopsies from patients with late-stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) because of concerns that dangerous complications will arise. But a new study found that, with careful expert review and good surgical approaches, certain late-stage patients can safely have surgical biopsies.


New Method for Prostate Cancer Detection can Save Millions of Men Painful Examination

“Each year prostate tissue samples are taken from over a million men around the world – in most cases using 12 large biopsy needles – to check whether they have prostate cancer. This medical procedure, which was recently described by an American urology professor as ‘barbaric’, shows that 70% of the subjects do not have cancer. The examination is unnecessarily painful and dangerous for these patents, and it is also costly to carry out. A patient-friendly examination method which drastically reduces the need for biopsies, and may even eliminate them altogether, has been developed at TU/e, together with AMC Amsterdam. At 10 March there was a conference on the results.”