London, Aug 3 : Breast cancer patients who have radiotherapy targeted at the original tumour site are likely to experience fewer side effects five years after treatment than those who have whole breast radiotherapy, according to trial results.
The findings of the IMPORT LOW trial, published in the journal The Lancet, showed that 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.
Further, five years after treatment, almost all patients were disease-free, the researchers 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 tumour, suggesting that some women receive unnecessary radiation to the whole breast,” said lead researcher Charlotte Coles from the Cambridge University.
“Now we have evidence to support the use of less, but equally effective, radiotherapy for selected patients,” Coles added.
For the study, the team 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.
“We’re delighted that the results of this trial have the potential to lead to a real change in the way selected breast cancer patients are treated,” explained Judith Bliss, Professor at the Institute of Cancer Research, London.
The technique can be carried out on standard radiotherapy machines, thus the study results will lead to further uptake of this treatment at centres worldwide, Bliss noted.
One of the challenges while treating early stage breast cancer was to minimise the side effects, which could impact a woman’s life, without affecting the chances of curing the patient.
“This approach could spare many women significant physical discomfort and emotional distress,” said Arnie Purushotham, Professor at the Cancer Research UK.