Some good news for breast cancer patients with secondary lymphedema:
On March 6th – Lymphedema Awareness Day – researchers presented investigational pre-clinical data on the first potential pharmacologic agent used in combination with surgery for the treatment of breast cancer associated lymphedema (source). In layman’s terms, this team of researchers have gathered data that shows lymph node transplant surgery could potentially maybe someday be a real thing, thanks to a vascular endothelial growth factor C (VEGF-C) called Lymfactin.
How would it work?
The therapy with Lymfactin involves a surgical operation where a lymph node flap is harvested from the patient’s lower abdominal wall and injected with Lymfactin, which leads to the transient presence of the adenovirus containing the VEGF-C gene. The lymph node is then transferred to the axillary region.
When the growth factor VEGF-C was injected into tissues of mice and later pigs, there was growth of new lymphatic vessels and restoration of lymphatic architecture. When combined with lymph node transfer, the administration of VEGF-C yielded an 80% improvement in mice with lymphedema. Researchers are developing a treatment that would enable a higher transfer success. Plans to start a phase I/II study in breast cancer patients are set for as early as next year (!).
Wendy Chaite, the founder of LRF, was quoted in the article as saying this treatment is “very promising,” and cites the current lack of any advanced treatments for lymphedema as making this research “all the more important for those who suffer from this condition.”
The implications of this study are huge. Currently, the only treatment options for lymphedema focus on minimizing swelling, controlling pain, and preventing infection. We’ve got wrappings, massages, compression.. nothing to cure or alleviate lymphedema, only maintain it. This condition is way too common to be ignored as much as it is. Let’s all hope that research continues to develop in this positive direction!