Mesothelioma Surgeon Identifies Lymph Nodes Integral to Gauging Disease Progression

Thoracic surgeons are on the front lines of the battle against malignant pleural mesothelioma. These physicians not only work to help specific patients, but also report back to their colleagues about their findings in a constant effort to advance their understanding of the disease. They share what works and what doesn’t so that every mesothelioma patient has an equal chance of long-term survival and improved quality of life. One of the most recent examples of how shared knowledge can benefit patients was found at the recent Society of Thoracic Surgeons meeting in San Diego, California, where surgeons from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) revealed their findings regarding the role of specific lymph nodes in assessing mesothelioma patient prognosis. They determined that when mesothelioma was found in these lymph nodes, it was predictive of higher risk of recurrence of disease.

Study Calls Attention to Specific Lymph Nodes

According to a presentation made by Joseph S. Friedberg, MD, the Charles Reid Edwards Professor of Surgery and Head of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at UMSOM, his team of surgeons found that when mesothelioma is found in the posterior intercostal lymph nodes, it was indicative of a two-fold increase in the risk of recurrence or death. The nodes, whose specific function is to drain the area located between the ribs, stood alone in this particular characteristic, and therefore were a highly reliable harbinger of the spread of the disease. This is notable, as they are not currently included in the process of staging pleural mesothelioma. They are also generally left in place when patients submit to surgical excision of pleural tumors.

Surgeon Points to Need for Further Investigation

Speaking of the importance of this discovery for future mesothelioma treatment, Dr. Friedberg said, “These nodes warrant further investigation, including non-operative techniques to identify them and factor them into treatment decision-making. Although larger studies are needed, we believe that these lymph nodes should routinely be removed during any surgery with therapeutic intent for malignant pleural mesothelioma, especially as they may be the only lymph nodes to harbor metastatic disease.”

Presence of Cancer in Lymph Nodes is Essential Information

The clinical study that the University of Maryland team conducted involved 56 patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. The study was designed to assess the impact of lung-sparing surgery, and in the course of the investigation the team found that nearly half of the patients enrolled had cancer in these particular lymph nodes, which previously have gotten very little attention. It also found that 7 percent had cancer in no other nodes – an indication that would otherwise have been interpreted as a hopeful sign.  As a pioneer in the treatment of mesothelioma, Dr. Friedberg has already significantly advanced patient survival through his use of lung-sparing surgery, photodynamic therapy and chemotherapy, with patients living a median of almost three years, and some surviving longer than seven years.

Mesothelioma researchers are making great strides every day, working to advance our understanding of the disease and how best to treat it. For information on how to access cutting edge treatment protocols, contact the Patient Advocates at today at 1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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