Targeted Radiotherapy Limits Side Effects of Breast Cancer Treatment

According to study results published in The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, breast cancer patients who have radiotherapy targeted at the original tumor site experience fewer side effects five years after treatment than those who have whole breast radiotherapy, and their cancer is just as unlikely to return.

The researchers at 30 radiotherapy centers across the UK, led by The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, studied more than 2,000 women aged 50 or over who had early stage breast cancer that was at a low risk of coming back.  Following breast conserving surgery, some patients were treated with whole breast radiotherapy, the clinical standard, while others received partial breast radiotherapy.  Women who received partial radiotherapy reported fewer long term changes to the appearance and feel of their breast, than those who had radiotherapy to the whole breast.

Dr. Charlotte Coles, chief investigator for the trial and first author of the publication, said, “We started this trial because there was evidence that if someone’s cancer returns, it tends to do so close to the site of the original tumor, suggesting that some women receive unnecessary radiation to the whole breast.  Now we have evidence to support the use of less, but equally effective, radiotherapy for selected patients.”

Professor Arnie Purushotham, Cancer Research UK’s senior clinical adviser, said, “One of the challenges when treating early stage breast cancer is trying to minimize the side effects that can have a real impact on a woman’s life, without affecting the chances of curing her.  This approach could spare many women significant physical discomfort and emotional distress.”

At Illinois CyberKnife, we treat breast cancer patients with partial-breast radiation using the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System.  CyberKnife is a painless, nonsurgical cancer treatment technology in which high-dose radiation is targeted to the tissue surrounding the site where the tumor was removed.  Radiation is delivered in an accelerated course of treatment over a few days instead of several weeks.  The benefits of using Cyberknife include minimized radiation exposure, including radiation to the heart, and greater success in saving healthy breast tissue.

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