Study finds first possible drug treatment for lymphedema

Collaboration between two Stanford labs has resulted in the discovery of a molecular cause for lymphedema and the first possible drug treatment for it.

Tracey Campbell has lived for seven years with lymphedema, a chronic condition that causes unsightly swelling in her left leg.

The disease, which stems from a damaged lymphatic system, can lead to infections, disfigurement, debilitating pain and disability. There is no cure. The only available treatment is to wear compression garments or use massage to suppress the swelling, which can occur throughout the body in some cases. Campbell — who had two quarts of excess water in her left leg by the time she was diagnosed — has for years worn restrictive garments 24 hours a day and has spent an hour each night massaging the lymph fluid out of her leg.

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Lymphedema is uncomfortable, exhausting and dangerous if left uncontrolled. As many as 10 million Americans and hundreds of millions of people worldwide suffer from the condition, many from the after-effects of cancer therapy treatments.

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