Currently, the best way to predict whether a breast cancer is likely to recur is to determine whether tumor cells have invaded the lymph nodes near the breast. But new research from the Stanford University School of Medicine suggests that looking at the immune cells in those lymph nodes - instead of the tumor cells - will yield a more accurate forecast. The finding could help clinicians determine which cancers to treat more aggressively to ensure the cancer goes away and doesnt come back.
"Immune changes in the lymph node almost perfectly predict clinical outcome, much better than any other prognostic factor that is available today," said Peter P. Lee, MD, assistant professor of medicine and the senior author of the paper detailing the findings in the Sept. 6 advance online edition of Public Library of Science-Medicine.
In samples of breast cancer patients lymph nodes, Lee and his colleagues identified unique patterns of immune cells. When the researchers compared the immune profiles to whether a patients cancer returned within five years, they could divide the patients into two groups. The group with what Lee termed a "favorable" immune profile had an 85 to 90 percent chance of being disease-free after five years. The group with an "unfavorable" immune profile had less than a 15 percent chance.
Mitzi Baker | EurekAlert!
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