FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS– A Fayetteville doctor’s research into a unique device, which is implanted during breast cancer treatment, concludes that the device has potential to improve the process of monitoring the cancer site after surgery.
In an upcoming presentation at an international breast cancer conference, well known breast radiologist Steven Harms, M.D. will report that a unique surgical marker called BioZorb™ has post-surgical advantages when inserted during lumpectomy surgery.
“After a surgery is performed to remove a breast cancer tumor, scar tissue can make it very difficult for us to see early signs that might indicate that breast cancer has returned,” said Dr. Harms. “As a radiologist, this is one of our biggest challenges, because it’s hard to know exactly where the tumor was, and scar tissue can hide things or look just like cancer.” Finding and tracking the area where the tumor was removed by mammography is essential because if there is a cancer recurrence, 80% of the time it will be near the spot where the original tumor was removed.
The BioZorb device studied by Dr. Harms has a small, absorbable coil that is implanted into the breast by the surgeon at the time of tumor removal. The device holds six titanium clips arranged in a three-dimensional pattern. This 3D pattern marking the tumor site remains and serves as a visual cue for radiation treatments. It also provides better visualization on follow-up mammograms and MRIs. “The intriguing thing about this device is that the coil holding the clips dissolves slowly over time, while the breast tissue grows in and heals,” he said.
Dr. Harms noted his preliminary research found that the 3D marker seems to reduce the extent of internal scarring within the breast. “In the patients we studied who had the marker implanted, I was pleasantly surprised when I viewed the mammograms after surgery,” he said. “The device seems to provide a mechanism to assist the growth of healthy tissue, and we can clearly see the difference on the follow-up mammograms. I have to admit, these findings were unexpected. But as a radiologist, this is very exciting since the marker has made it easier for us to monitor these patients.”
A lumpectomy is breast-conserving treatment that removes cancer from a woman’s breast. It is usually followed by radiation therapy to treat any cancer cells that may have been left behind.
Typical mammograms showing breasts after surgery. Left image shows dense scarring often seen after cancer treatment, while right image shows patient with less scar tissue and healthy tissue growing within the BioZorb marker.
“The 3-D shape of the device helps to maintain the contour of the breast and helps to promote growth of healthy tissue into the area where the lumpectomy was done,” Dr. Harms said. “Dr. Cross, our local breast surgeon, has been using the device routinely for 3 years now and we have a solid experience with the mammograms we’ve seen on these patients. What we see is a very important observation: There is much less scarring and you see healthy tissue that looks just like normal tissue.”
For his research presentation at the upcoming national breast cancer conference, Dr. Harms examined follow-up images from a group of the 110 patients in which the BioZorb device was inserted over three years.
He found that use of the marker was readily compatible with diagnostic modalities including mammography, ultrasound, MRI and computed tomography, which are used by radiologists for monitoring breast cancer patients. His research adds to previous findings that have reported the device helps to improve cosmetic results after lumpectomy surgery and also assists with planning for radiation treatment, which helps minimize exposure of healthy tissues to unnecessary radiation.
Dr. Harms’s research will be presented at the international 2015 Breast Cancer Symposium in San Francisco, in a scientific poster titled “Mammographic imaging after partial breast reconstruction: Impact of a bioabsorbable breast implant.” Other study authors include breast surgeons Michael Cross, M.D. of Fayetteville, and Cary Kaufman, MD. of Bellingham, Wash. The 2015 Breast Cancer Symposium will be held in San Francisco, Sept. 25-27.
Dr. Steven E. Harms is internationally recognized in the area of breast MRI and was named “Komen Foundation Scientist of the Year” by Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 1998. He was previously on the faculty at Baylor University Medical Center and M. D. Anderson Cancer Institute and is now a clinical professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.