Background: The efficacy of sentinel lymph node (SLN) surgery requires targeted removal of first-draining nodes; however, frequently more nodes are removed than necessary. [(99m)Tc]tilmanocept (TcTM) is a molecular-targeted radiopharmaceutical specifically designed for SLN mapping. We evaluated technical outcomes of SLN biopsy in breast cancer patients mapped with TcTM + vital blue dye (VBD) versus filtered [(99m)Tc]sulfur colloid (fTcSC) + VBD.
Methods: There were 84 versus 115 patients in the TcTM versus fTcSC cohorts, respectively. Main measures were the number of SLNs removed per patient and factors influencing number of nodes removed. We also evaluated whether the radiotracer injected affected the proportion of positive nodes removed in node-positive patients.
Results: Fewer nodes were removed among patients mapped with TcTM compared to fTcSC (mean TcTM: 1.85 vs. fTcSC: 3.24, p < 0.001). Logistic regression analysis adjusted for tumor characteristics showed that injection of fTcSC (p < 0.001) independently predicted removal of greater than 3 nodes. A similar proportion of patients was identified as node-positive, whether mapped with TcTM or with fTcSC (TcTM: 24 % vs. fTcSC: 17 %, p = 0.3); however, TcTM detected a greater proportion of positive nodes among node-positive patients compared with fTcSC (0.73 vs. 0.43, p = 0.001).
Conclusions: Patients undergoing SLN biopsy with TcTM required fewer SLNs to identify the same rate of node-positive patients compared with fTcSC in breast cancer patients with similar risk of axillary metastatic disease. These data suggest that a molecularly targeted mechanism of SLN identification may reduce the total number of nodes necessary for accurate axillary staging.