Susan G. Komen for the Cure funds Lymphoseek

In the United States, breast cancer is the second most common cancer amongst women, trailing only skin cancers. In fact, breast cancer accounts for 1 in 3 diagnoses for American women.

5161624345_d8d3f2d297Compared to the rest of the United States, Michigan ranks a bit lower in rates of incidence for breast cancer, but ranks a bit higher for mortality rates due to breast cancer. Breast cancer strikes Caucasian women the most; however, African American women are most likely to die from breast cancer.

Regardless of breast cancer originating or being detected in the breasts, metastasis is actually the leading cause of death in breast cancer patients. Once the cancer metastasizes, the cells are first in the lymph nodes, though not easily found. Currently, the best method for detecting if cancer cells have infiltrated lymph nodes is to surgically remove the nodes, which tends to have a high risk factor and can create serious side effects or complications. Researchers and medical professionals desire, and have been working, to improve this and change how lymph node mapping is performed.

Dr. Anne Wallace, Chief of Plastic Surgery at the University of California at San Diego, and Dr. David Vera, a chemist, utilized the resources from a Susan G. Komen for the Cure grant to develop Lymphoseek. Now FDA-approved, Lymphoseek is the first new drug to be approved for lymph node mapping in more than 30 years. This changes the face of testing and prevention with regards to the stage of metastization.

Wallace and Vera worked together to create an agent that performs diagnostic imaging targeting the lymph nodes directly correlated to a tumor. In other words, the nodes closest to the cancerous tumor are known to be the nodes that most likely contain metastasized cancer cells. Lymphoseek highlights these nodes making the procedures to remove cancerous lymph nodes more accurate and more successful to the patient.

For the future and for patients battling breast cancer, Lymphoseek offers hope and emerging strides in treatment. Lymphoseek can detect more lymph nodes than the previously used agents and the dye agent stays in the lymph nodes for detection up to 30 hours. This procedure lowers the likelihood of removing healthy lymph nodes, having unnecessary surgery, and cancer cell metastization by early detection. Komen took a chance most organizations would have passed on to fund the research and clinical trials necessary in making Lymphoseek a reality.

Do you know someone who would benefit from emerging research and treatment options like Lymphoseek?

Photo credit: guyhousewright

Kristin Coppens

About Kristin Coppens

Kristin Coppens is responsible for BCBSM coverage of the West Michigan, Northern Michigan, and Upper Peninsula regions. Kristin is a writer, social media enthusiast, and information junkie. A self-proclaimed foodie, techie, and political nerd, she is a dedicated promoter of Grand Rapids community development, urban engagement, arts, healthcare, wellness, supporting and buying local, entrepreneurism, and the city as a whole.
 
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