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One shot radiotherapy hope for breast cancer

7th June 2010

A UK study has suggested that a single dose of radiation during surgery is just as effective as a prolonged course of radiotherapy for breast cancer.

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Doctors at University College London Hospitals tested the technique in more than 2,000 patients.

They say the method, which involves a single shot of radiotherapy to a tumour site, could be more convenient to patients, cut waiting lists and save the UK £15m a year while Cancer Research UK believe it will have a huge impact for patients.

Thousands of women often start their breast cancer treatment with surgery to remove cancerous tissue, followed by weeks of radiotherapy.

But with the new technique, doctors use a mobile radiotherapy machine that can be inserted into the breast to target the exact site of the cancer.

The UK team conducted the research in nine countries over a four year period.

While there were similar rates of disease recurrence regardless of the treatment used, the single dose during surgery avoids potential damage to organs such as the heart, lung, and oesophagus, which can occur during radiation to the whole breast.

UCLH oncologist Prof Jeffrey Tobias said: "I think the reason why it works so well is because of the precision of the treatment. It eradicates the very highest risk area - the part of the breast from which the tumour was removed."

Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said: "Radiotherapy is already a very effective treatment, so improving that even further is an exciting prospect."

 

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