Preoperative staging of suspicious axillary lymph nodes (ALNs) allows patients to be triaged to ALN dissection or to sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB). Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration (FNA) and cytology of ALN is moderately sensitive but its clinical utility relies heavily on the cytologist’s experience. We proposed that the 5-h automated GeneXpert system-based prototype breast cancer detection assay (BCDA) that quantitatively measures DNA methylation in ten tumor-specific gene markers could provide a facile, accurate test for detecting cancer in FNA of enlarged lymph nodes. We validated the assay in ALN-FNA samples from a prospective study of patients (N = 230) undergoing SLNB. In a blinded analysis of 218 evaluable LN-FNAs from 108 malignant and 110 benign LNs by histology, BCDA displayed a sensitivity of 90.7% and specificity of 99.1%, achieving an area under the ROC curve, AUC of 0.958 (95% CI: 0.928–0.989; P < 0.0001). Next, we conducted a study of archival FNAs of ipsilateral palpable LNs (malignant, N = 72, benign, N = 53 by cytology) collected in the outpatient setting prior to neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC). Using the ROC-threshold determined in the prospective study, compared to cytology, BCDA achieved a sensitivity of 94.4% and a specificity of 92.5% with a ROC-AUC = 0.977 (95% CI: 0.953–1.000; P < 0.0001). Our study shows that the automated assay detects cancer in suspicious lymph nodes with a high level of accuracy within 5 h. This cancer detection assay, scalable for analysis to scores of LN FNAs, could assist in determining eligibility of patients to different treatment regimens.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
- Pharmacology (medical)