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At the forefront of ablating tumors with extreme temperatures, Dr. Rache Simmons, Professor of Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and the Anne K. and Edwin C. Weiskopf Professor of Surgical Oncology was the first in the New York metropolitan area to evaluate the use of laser and cryoablation to destroy both benign breast tumors and breast cancers. Because of this research, the technology has become an accepted non-invasive treatment of fibroadenomas. Dr. Simmons is currently leading a national, multicenter National Institutes of Health trial to evaluate ablation therapy for the treatment of small breast cancer. In addition, research is being conducted on the efficacy of pre- and post-treatment imaging to determine residual disease in patients with invasive breast carcinoma undergoing cryoablation.

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Article on Weill Cornell Breast Center's Interdisciplinary Care
As principal or co-investigators in numerous multicenter clinical trials, the faculty members of the Section of Breast Surgery continue to investigate the field of chemoprevention of breast cancer in high-risk women; the indications for drug therapy in postmenopausal women with ductal carcinoma in situ; the use of digital infrared imaging to enhance breast cancer detection; intraoperative radiation therapy. In addition, they have studied devices that aid in precision targeting for partial breast radiation therapy and conducted a feasibility study on breast specific gamma imaging to improve positive predictive value in patients with mammographic and/or sonographic abnormalities requiring breast biopsy. There are a number of breast cancer surgery techniques that the Section’s surgeons have pioneered. Our surgeons were among the first physicians in New York to perform a sentinel lymph node biopsy, in which tracer compounds pinpoint the first “filtering” lymph node, eliminating the need to surgically remove multiple lymph nodes to study the involvement of axillary lymph nodes. This procedure is now part of the standard treatment for breast cancer patients nationwide.

The Section’s surgeons are also among the few worldwide who perform bone marrow examination at the time of surgery to rule out micrometastatic disease. Other innovations include new intraductal surgical approaches and intraoperative devices that use radiofrequency spectroscopy to evaluate operative margins. Weill Cornell surgeons were also among the first to offer MammoSite partial breast irradiation– a brachytherapy technique that reduces duration of radiotherapy to the affected breast tissue to 10 days. As chemotherapy and radiotherapy play such an important role in the treatment of breast cancer, Weill Cornell surgeons are part of a multidisciplinary team that evaluates patients for neoadjuvant, adjuvant and hormonal therapy in association with surgical therapy.

In addition, as the understanding of the role of genetics in breast cancer has become clear, the Section has established the Genetic Risk Assessment Program to assess an individual’s risk and to incorporate it into treatment plans. As part of this program, researchers are actively pursuing tools such as tumor genetic profiling along with assessments of blood and bone marrow to better predict a breast cancer patient’s risk for recurrence.

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