Breast cancer study wins international award

Published: 11 June 2013 at 16:25

Anglia Ruskin surgeons receive recognition for research into sentinel lymph node biopsy

Two surgeons at Anglia Ruskin University have received a major international award for their study into a new method of carrying out sentinel lymph node biopsy for early breast cancer, which is both safer and cheaper than current practices.

Gordon Wishart, Professor of Cancer Surgery, and John Benson, Visiting Professor of Applied Surgical Sciences, won the B Braun Scientific Award at the 48th Conference of the European Society for Surgical Research in Istanbul.  The award is presented annually to the best new surgical technique or surgical device.

Affiliated to Anglia Ruskin’s Postgraduate Medical Institute, Professor Wishart and Professor Benson demonstrated how the use of fluorescent indocyanine green (ICG), detected by a PhotoDynamic Eye (PDE) camera, is more effective than radioisotope for carrying out sentinel lymph node biopsy for patients with breast cancer, particularly when used in conjunction with blue dye.

Professor Wishart said:

“In early breast cancer, keeping the number of false-negative biopsies and the number of excised sentinel lymph nodes to a minimum is essential.  
“Our study showed that the sensitivity for fluorescent ICG and blue dye [95.0%] compares very favourably with that for blue dye and radioisotope [73.1%] and suggests that a dual tracer approach using ICG and blue dye may be a potential way forward for sentinel lymph node detection.
“Fluorescent ICG has been used in several aspects of healthcare for many years and is safe, cheap and readily available in all hospitals.  In contrast, radioisotope is expensive and requires access to nuclear medicine facilities, and therefore involves potential radiation exposure for patients and staff.  
“Furthermore, there are now international shortages of radioisotope which is likely to lead to increased cost in the future.  Because of the cost implications, ICG is more likely to be adopted in developing countries.  It is also a much easier technique to teach surgical trainees and, most importantly, it is extremely successful at detecting the first sentinel lymph node.”

The study was carried out at the Cambridge Breast Unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, where Professor Benson is a Consultant Breast Surgeon, and was published in the European Journal of Surgical Oncology.  Further research studies involving fluorescent ICG are now under way for sentinel lymph node biopsy in anal cancer and melanoma.