Lymph nodes contain disease-fighting white blood cells and their role is to drain the body of anything foreign outside the bloodstream, such as bacteria or viruses. This is why lymph nodes are often swollen during times of infection. Cancerous cells often spread around the body via the lymph system. A lymph node biopsy will then determine the stage of cancer and an appropriate treatment plan. Unfortunately, deeply buried lymph nodes are currently difficult to distinguish from surrounding soft tissue. But a new imaging technique that can identify nodes and track the spread of cancer is currently undergoing clinical trials. The forepaw of this mouse was injected with a high-contrast substance called 89Zr-ferumoxtyol. After six hours it has spread from lymph nodes in the leg to those in the armpit (purple-orange areas). This clear identification of lymph nodes will make biopsies easier and less invasive.
Written by Helen Thomas