Stanford researchers are reporting a new and better way to test whether a breast cancer is likely to recur.Until now, the best way to predict likely breast cancer recurrence is whether tumor cells have invaded the lymph nodes near the breast. 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 doesn’t come back.
According to the senior author of the study, Dr. Peter Lee, the immune changes in the lymph node predict clinical outcome much better than any other prognostic factor that is available today. The new method almost perfectly predicts clinical outcome.
It was found that immune changes occurred in lymph nodes with no detectable tumor cells. It might be a more sensitive and earlier method of detecting metastasis, or tumor spread, than actually seeing the migrated tumor cells themselves.
The information could help determine which women could benefit from more aggressive therapy, and which could be spared undergoing costly and toxic treatments unnecessarily.