Project details

Researcher: Professor Emad Rakha

Location: University of Nottingham

Project title: Finding more effective ways to tell whether breast cancer is present in the lymph nodes.

Key area: Treatment


The challenge

If breast cancer cells are present in the sentinel lymph nodes – tiny organs found close to the breast in the armpit – this could be an indication that the cancer is more likely to spread. Removing the sentinel lymph nodes that contain cancer cells can reduce the chances of cancer spreading. However, the current methods used during surgery of determining whether lymph nodes contain cancer cells are not always accurate. The alternative is that the lymph nodes are analysed separately, and patients have to return for second surgeries to remove any affected nodes. Professor Rakha is hoping to develop a new method that is quicker and more accurate, and ultimately better for patients.

Project description

In this project Professor Rakha will be developing an innovative new tool for determining whether or not lymph nodes contain cancer cells; combining cutting edge imaging techniques with artificial intelligence. He hopes that this new tool will be able to accurately assess the lymph nodes in less than 10 minutes, meaning it can be used during surgery and any lymph nodes found to contain cancer cells can be removed straight away, rather than at a second surgery.

In this project, Professor Rakha and his team will be developing the new technique and then testing how well it performs, using lymph nodes that have been donated by patients after they have been removed during surgery. Prof Rakha’s team will then use this insight to develop a prototype which will undergo further testing.

What difference will this project make?

If successful, this new method could provide a clearer picture of whether cancer is present in lymph nodes, and therefore how likely the cancer is to spread – helping doctors and patients to make informed decisions about treatment. If patients would benefit from having their sentinel lymph nodes removed, this new method allows it to happen without the need for 

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