Scientists at ETH Zurich have developed technology for non-invasive imaging of lymphatic vessels. It can be applied to detect and monitor lymphangiogenesis in lymph nodes, using Immuno-Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and other imaging methods.
Cancer metastasis to regional lymph nodes is an important prognostic indicator for many cancer types. Current non-invasive imaging technologies are not sensitive enough for the reliable detection of lymph node metastases below one centimetre in size. Therefore regional lymph nodes of cancer patients are excised and analysed by a more established method.
However, during this procedure healthy lymph nodes are unnecessarily removed. Lymph node removal is associated with severe side effects, including lymphedema.
The new technology allows for earlier and non-invasive diagnosis using antibodies, and could replace regional lymph node dissection for prognostic and diagnostic purposes in cancer patients.