Melanoma Patients' Sentinel Lymph Nodes (SLNS) Play A Strong Role In Disease Prognosis, UCSF Study Reports

ATLANTA -- Researchers at the University of California San Francisco report that melanoma patients whose cancer has spread to their sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs) have a greater chance of experiencing disease recurrence and mortality compared to those whose cancer has not advanced to their SLNs.

The sentinel lymph node (SLN) earned its name because it is the first region in a person's body that receives cancer cells from the place where the disease originated. After cancer cells drain to the SLN, the disease may spread, or metastasize, to other regions of the body. Lymph nodes are the body's first line of defense against infections and cancers. They produce infection-fighting lymphocytes that are distributed via the lymphatic system that functions as a channel of freeways throughout the body.

"Sentinel lymph nodes are a strong marker for predicting a patient's outcomes in regards to disease recurrence and death due to advanced melanoma," says Stanley P.L. Leong, MD, FACS, UCSF professor of surgery and director of the Sentinel Lymph Node program in the UCSF Cancer Center. "We found that patients who have a positive SLN biopsy are more likely to experience a disease recurrence and die from melanoma than those with a negative SLN biopsy."

Leong will present data on the role of SLNs in melanoma today at the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting.

During the UCSF study, a total of 358 advanced melanoma patients underwent a selective SLN dissection and were followed for a median period of 546 days.

Leong reports that for patients whose cancer spread to their SLNs and therefore had a positive SLN biopsy (63), 78 percent had no evidence of disease and 22 percent experienced recurrent melanoma. Eighty-six percent of these patients remained alive and 14 percent (9) died from melanoma by the end of the study.

For patients with negative SLNs (295), 93 percent showed no evidence of disease and 7 percent developed a recurrence of the dis

Contact: Abby Sinnot
University of California - San Francisco

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