Nonsurgical methods to identify critical lymph nodes in patients with breast cancer

January 30, 2016

"I'm trying to develop a better way to mark the sentinel lymph node," says Goodwin. His approach involves using ultrasound - high-frequency sound waves used in medical imaging applications such as prenatal sonograms - and gas-filled microbubbles with fluorescent outer shells. These microbubbles capable of loading large amounts of dye are described in a recent article in the journal Soft Matter by Goodwin and coworkers.

If Goodwin's vision translates to the clinic, a physician would inject the fluorescent microbubbles into the tumor and then use ultrasound to visualize the bubbles as they drain away from the tumor and into the lymph nodes under the arm. Once the lymph nodes have been imaged and the sentinel lymph node identified, the radiologist will turn up the power of the ultrasound beam - but just in the area surrounding the sentinel lymph node. This will burst the microbubbles and release non-toxic fluorescent polymer that is designed to stick specifically in the lymph nodes for extended periods, allowing both the doctor and patient to adequately prepare for the lymph node dissection surgery.

For now, critical next steps include testing how the outer shell of the microbubbles interact with the lymph node lining, as well as tests in animal models.

Source: University of California - San Diego