New research points to potential for single breast cancer radiotherapy shot

In Clinical Studies News by Barbara Jacoby

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By: Jack Power, Mark Hilliard


New research which suggests a single shot of radiotherapy may be as effective as current treatment for certain types of breast cancers, has been described as promising by the Irish Cancer Society.

The University College London (UCL) study, published on Friday, suggests a new treatment may avoid the need for a long course of radiotherapy post-operation.

The research, published in the British Journal of Cancer, examined 2,298 women with invasive breast cancer, who either received standard radiotherapy, or a new treatment called TARGIT-IORT.

The new treatment is a single dose of radiotherapy delivered for 20 to 30 minutes, immediately after the removal of a tumour.

The new research found in eight out of ten cases where patients received the new treatment, they did not need a further long course of radiotherapy.

Dr Robert O’Connor, Irish Cancer Society director of research, said: “The findings from this study offer the promise of practice-changing treatment for women with this form of breast cancer.”

The “transformative” study underlined how important cancer research was in discovering new ways to treat patients. He noted however the research was not applicable to all forms of breast cancer.

Patients who received the new treatment were also less likely to later develop lung problems, other cancers, or suffer heart attacks, the study said.

The TARGIT-IORT treatment allowed patients to avoid potential scattered radiation from traditional radiotherapy, which the researchers said could damage organs.

‘A no-brainer’

Prof Jayant Vaidya, a clinical researcher on the study, told The Irish Times, it was likely uptake of the treatment would increase, after the positive research.

“Once people get to know about, it hospitals get to know about it, it’s something of a no-brainer,” he said.

The latest study builds on previous work that showed the treatment left patients with fewer radiation-related side effects and less pain, compared to conventional radiotherapy.

The clinical trial involved 32 hospitals across ten countries, including the UK, the USA, France, Germany, Italy and Australia.

Prof Vaidya said the results clearly showed TARGIT-IORT was “effective” in treating the most common type of breast cancer.The study would hopefully “fuel further research, opening doors to new treatments,” he said.

The researchers noted to date 45,000 patients had been given TARGIT-IORT, and hoped the latest findings would lead to the treatment becoming more widespread, as an alternative to standard radiotherapy.

A Health Service Executive (HSE) spokeswoman confirmed the single dose radiotherapy treatment “is currently available in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, for suitable patients who meet the criteria for this treatment.”

Aisling Hurley, Breast Cancer Ireland chief executive, said it had funded the first machine to deliver the treatment, in Beaumont Hospital, three years ago.

“The criteria, however, for those suitable is very stringent and extensive and therefore only a small cohort are suitable to avail of this procedure,” she said.

The treatment was “game changing” as it reduced the need for cancer patients to return to hospital 10 to 15 times after surgery, she said.