Gold changes the game for breast cancer patient care

In Canada, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, making it essential that we have the tools to quickly identify and treat the disease. Through the Breast Surgical Localization Program, the Providence Breast Centre at Mount St. Joseph Hospital in Vancouver is ensuring that women have access to lifesaving and life-altering care.

At Eldorado Gold, we recognize the impact this program is having for women in need of cancer care, and that’s why we’re pleased to announce that for the second year, we are supporting the Providence Breast Centre in improving the experience of women undergoing breast cancer surgery in British Columbia.

Each year, the centre sees 5,500 patients. In 2023, with the help of Eldorado Gold and other supporters, the Providence Breast Centre introduced a new technology using gold seeds that replaces a time-consuming pre-operative localization procedure with one that is more comfortable for patients and enables the centre to perform even more life-saving surgeries.

“We’re proud to once again support the lifesaving work of the Providence Breast Centre,” said George Burns, President & CEO, Eldorado Gold. “It’s exciting to see such an innovative use of gold in healthcare – and with such a profound impact on patients. The Providence Breast Centre can conduct more surgeries, with more precision in locating the tumour, and patients are more comfortable throughout the process.”

“Eldorado Gold’s donation was a catalyst for our program, helping to raise the start-up costs and get the program running,” said Dr. Rebecca Warburton, Medical Director of Providence Breast Centre. “Rarely do we see an entirely new program have such a quick turnaround time and with such impressive results.”

How it works: Vastly improving patient care with gold

How is the Providence Breast Centre using gold and innovation to change the game? Here’s what they have to say about the power of this new technology:

Dr. Amy Bazzarelli, one of the Project Leads, holds up the gold-plated magnetic MOLLI seed in its container

The Providence Breast Centre’s Breast Surgical Localization Program is the “eureka moment” – or rather, the eureka magnet – that helps surgeons more easily locate and remove cancerous tumours.

MOLLI stands for Magnetic Occult Lesion Localization and Imaging. It’s a long name for a simple-yet-sophisticated innovation pioneered at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Tumours deep in the breast tissue, and those that aren’t palpable, can be hard for surgeons to find and fully remove.

With MOLLI, the radiologist uses a mammogram or ultrasound to guide a small needle to the tumour to implant a magnetic gold-plated seed. Unlike a wire that needs to be placed in the patient the day of the surgery, and which is the standard procedure, the seed can be put in place up to 30 days before, streamlining the process significantly.

Once in the OR, the surgeon uses a wand that functions exactly like a handheld metal detector. The wand picks up the magnetic signal from the seed and sends images and sounds to a screen that guides the surgeon to the tumour’s exact location. The cancerous tissue, the margins around it and the seed itself are then removed safely and precisely.

The results:

In the first five months following the program’s inception in April 2023, surgeons at the Providence Breast Centre performed 498 operations for proven or suspected breast cancer. The team is on track to conduct 1500 surgeries this year – a staggering 25% increase in breast cancer surgeries since pre-pandemic times.

“Before this technology, radiologists could only perform five wire insertions a day. But, with the seeds, there are no limitations on the number of localization procedures that can happen in a day. Everything is much more efficient now,” said Dr. Rebecca Warbuton, Providence Breast Centre.

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