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Ground-breaking pilot project poised to transform breast cancer surgery in Alberta

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An innovative magnetic localization project will dramatically improve cancer surgery and the patient experience across the province.

Dr. May Lynn Quan

Oncologist Dr. May Lynn Quan has been instrumental in bringing Sentimag to the province. She has worked with breast cancer leaders and radiologists from across Alberta, advocating for its’ widespread use since 2018.
Oncologist Dr. May Lynn Quan has been instrumental in bringing Sentimag to the province. She has worked with breast cancer leaders and radiologists from across Alberta, advocating for its’ widespread use since 2018.

Magseed magnetic localization marker

Magseed® is a tiny metallic marker, or seed, resembling a grain of rice designed to mark breast cancer tumours.
Magseed® is a tiny metallic marker, or seed, resembling a grain of rice designed to mark breast cancer tumours.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada, May 27, 2024 – Calgary Health Foundation and Alberta Cancer Foundation announce $5.7M toward an innovative breast cancer surgery pilot project. The Sentimag Project, made possible through the support of Calgary Health Foundation donors and a significant gift from Alberta Cancer Foundation, and because of the determination of one Calgary-based oncologist, is poised to revolutionize the way Albertans experience breast-preserving cancer surgery.

In stark contrast to hook wires, a magnetic seed called Magseed can be inserted at the tumour site and sit safely in the breast indefinitely without risk of dislodging or pain, allowing for less urgent and complicated scheduling, and fewer imaging appointments and invasive procedures. Painful radioactive injections, often quoted as being worse than the surgery itself, are eliminated by mapping the lymph nodes during the surgery while under anesthetic.

“We are proud to be funding the Sentimag Project with the support of our donors and Alberta Cancer Foundation. Our donors repeatedly tell us they value funding advancements that will make a tangible difference on the patient experience; the pilot project fulfills this wish.” Murray Sigler, CEO & President, Calgary Health Foundation

The funding of breakthroughs in surgery and surgical care is one of Calgary Health Foundation’s top priorities which made backing the project an easy choice.

“The initiative will change the way Alberta women experience cancer surgery. We hope that by funding surgery innovation, tangible improvements will be made to the patient experience, making breast cancer care as comfortable and effective as possible.” Rebecca Bowman, Vice President, Philanthropy & Chief Development Officer

Close to half of the funding for the pilot is thanks to Alberta Cancer Foundation, an investment which, in the words of their Board Vice Chair, was an easy one to make.

“We are thrilled to support the Sentimag Project, a revolutionary step forward in breast cancer treatment. Investments in innovative technologies like Magseed not only help advance the precision and effectiveness of cancer surgeries but also help ease the patient experience. This project truly aligns with the Foundation’s commitment to transforming cancer treatment and ensuring the best possible care for Albertans facing cancer.” Barbara Munroe, Board Vice Chair, Alberta Cancer Foundation.

“Marking the tumour for surgical excision with hook wires that protrude from the breast and injection of painful radioactive tracer prior to surgery have been standard practice for decades but are clearly not patient focused approaches.  The good news is we now have other ways to identify these lesions with fewer invasive procedures and much less stress than before. This technology allows us to be efficient with our healthcare resources to improve the patient experience. We are very excited about the thought of bringing it to Calgarians, develop workflows and evaluate its implementation to provide data supporting its use for all women in Alberta.” Dr. May Lynn Quan, Medical Director of the Calgary Breast Health Program, Scientific Director of SPHERE (Strategies for Precision Health in Breast Cancer)

“There have been amazing advancements in breast cancer care resulting in bettor outcomes with less invasive surgery and de-escalation of treatments like chemotherapy. The downside is that the patient journey is now more complex with many moving parts which can be daunting and stressful. Localizing the tumour and mapping lymph nodes is one piece of a complicated process for women which we can easily improve with new technology. By taking advantage of opportunities to use devices like the Sentimag system, we can enhance the patient experience and remove strain from the healthcare system.” Dr. Quan.

Future aims include reducing invasive procedures even further by leaving a Magseed in at the time biopsy, allowing patients to go directly to surgery or chemotherapy. Quan hopes the pilot will irrefutably prove the benefits of magnetic markers so they become the standard of care throughout the province.

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