Sentinel lymph node biopsy performed after neoadjuvant chemotherapy is accurate in patients with documented node-positive breast cancer at presentation

Erika A Newman, Michael S Sabel, Alexis V Nees, Anne Schott, Kathleen M Diehl, Vincent M Cimmino, Alfred E Chang, Celina Kleer, Daniel F Hayes, Lisa A Newman
Annals of Surgical Oncology 2007, 14 (10): 2946-52

BACKGROUND: The optimal strategy for incorporating lymphatic mapping and sentinel lymph node biopsy into the management of breast cancer patients receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy remains controversial. Previous studies of sentinel node biopsy performed following neoadjuvant chemotherapy have largely reported on patients whose prechemotherapy, pathologic axillary nodal status was unknown. We report findings using a novel comprehensive approach to axillary management of node-positive-patients receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

METHODS: We evaluated 54 consecutive breast cancer patients with biopsy-proven axillary nodal metastases at the time of diagnosis that underwent lymphatic mapping with nodal biopsy as well as concomitant axillary lymph node dissection after receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy. All cases were treated at a single comprehensive cancer center between 2001 and 2005.

RESULTS: The sentinel node identification rate after delivery of neoadjuvant chemotherapy was 98%. Thirty-six patients (66%) had residual axillary metastases (including eight patients that had undergone resection of metastatic sentinel nodes at the time of diagnosis), and in 12 cases (31%) the residual metastatic disease was limited to the sentinel lymph node. The final, post-neoadjuvant chemotherapy sentinel node was falsely negative in three cases (8.6%). The negative final sentinel node accurately identified patients with no residual axillary disease in 17 cases (32%).

CONCLUSIONS: Sentinel lymph node biopsy performed after the delivery of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in patients with documented nodal disease at presentation accurately identified cases that may have been downstaged to node-negative status and can spare this subset of patients (32%) from experiencing the morbidity of an axillary dissection.

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