Women undergoing treatment for breast cancer face not only the trauma of a lumpectomy or mastectomy but often a disabling secondary surgery to remove their lymph nodes. Now, the John Wayne Cancer Foundation is funding groundbreaking research designed to more accurately identify patients with limited lymph node disease for whom complete lymph node removal would be overtreatment, thus reducing the occurrence of unnecessary and potentially dangerous surgery.

The foundation has granted $100,000 to Duke University Medical Director and Professor of Surgery Dr. Maggie DiNome to fund her research seeking to create a molecular-based, clinically reliable means of predicting lymph node disease in patients with breast cancer without the morbidity of surgery.

“I am incredibly honored to receive funding support from the John Wayne Cancer Foundation for my research in breast cancer, the most common cancer affecting women worldwide,” said Dr. DiNome. “The John Wayne Cancer Foundation has a strong history of giving, which has supported transformative cancer research and has improved the lives of so many. I am grateful to partner with the John Wayne family in an effort to reduce overtreatment and improve the outcomes of patients with breast cancer.”

Dr. DiNome is building upon research that increasingly shows that operating on lymph nodes for patients with breast cancer is not necessary to improve one’s survival chances and can lead to disabling arm swelling as a consequence of the surgery. In this era of precision medicine, molecular profiling of one’s primary tumor is becoming more common to determine chemotherapy and radiation therapy benefit for patients with breast cancer.

In Dr. DiNome’s early research, her team used machine-learning to generate molecular signatures based on the DNA methylation status of only a few gene regions in the primary tumor that can accurately predict for lymph node disease. With this grant, Dr. DiNome hopes to validate these epigenetic signatures so that oncology practitioners have the ability to provide more reliable treatment plans for their patients.

“When we started the John Wayne Cancer Foundation in 1985, one of our goals was to improve cancer patient outcomes and to save lives,” explained Ethan Wayne, Director of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. “Research such as that conducted by Dr. DiNome will create better and safer treatment protocols for women diagnosed with breast cancer. We’re proud to support her endeavors.”Dr. DiNome’s research studies are among many funded through the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, whose primary mission is to fight cancer through research, education, awareness and support.

Duke University Medical Director and Professor of Surgery Dr. Maggie DiNome

Duke University Medical Director and Professor of Surgery Dr. Maggie DiNome

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