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Novel imaging technique shows lymph nodes, metastases in breast cancer without surgery

and has the preliminary data to support, an approach that would send the woman first to the MRI center, where a technician would inject the new imaging agent. Its chemical properties would then light up, in real time, the flow of lymph from breast through lymph vessels to nodes under the arm.

You can actually watch the filling of nodes from the tumor, Brechbiel says, referring to observations he and his team have made in transgenic mice. Some will light up very early, others later. And then you can also reconstruct the data into a three-dimensional image, and rotate it for a three-dimensional road map. The surgeon can know how a patients lymph tissue is constructed even before surgical intervention begins.

Brechbiels technique could save time on the operating table, inflict less trauma and possibly even diagnose cancerous nodes as well as delineate the local lymph network. Cancerous cells can block normal filling of the node, and when that happens you can spot the aberration in flow, he says.

The imaging agent itself is also new. Other MRI compounds are small molecules, but the NCI group instead has developed a series of dendrimer complexes to carry the magnetic signal. Some of these elaborate scaffolds of polymer each hold a remarkable 256 ions of gadolinium, a rare-earth metal and common magnetic signal in MRI. Dendrimers give a stronger signal even when adjusted for their high molecular weight, and a crisper image because their bulkiness keeps them from leaking through vessel walls.

Having taken the work this far, NCI is now looking for an industrial partner to carry it to clinical trials. Meanwhile, a paper on the research has been accepted for publication later this year by the peer-reviewed Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization, chartered by the U.S. Congress, with a multidisciplinary membership of more than 159,000 chemists and chemical engineers. It publishe
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23-Aug-2004


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