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Targeted radiation could help fight breast cancer

26th March 2014
US scientists looked at 75 female patients from the ages of 26 to 82.  They all had chemotherapy-resistant breast cancer that had spread to the liver. Their tumours were too large or too numerous to be treated with other methods.

breastcancerThese patients are some of the 117,000 patients are diagnosed each year in the US with advanced breast cancer.

The trialled treatment is called yttrium 90 (Y-90) radioembolization. It involves inserting a catheter through a tiny cut in the groin and guiding it into the artery that supplies the liver. Radiation-emitting micro beads are then sent through the catheter, killing small blood vessels that feed the tumour.

Y-90 readioembolization stabilized 98.5% of the treated liver tumours, according to the study. Furthermore, 24 of the women experienced more than 30% shrinkage in tumour size after treatment, which caused a few side effects.

Leading researcher, Dr. Lewandowski*,  said in a society news release, "Although this is not a cure, Y-90 radioembolization can shrink liver tumours, relieve painful symptoms, improve the quality of life and potentially extend survival."

Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that while this type of therapy has been used to fight liver tumours, "the ability to use this therapy in treatment of metastatic breast cancer to the liver offers some hope to patients with the disease."

Bernik explained that, right now, the treatment can only extend survival for women with advanced breast cancer, it is not a cure. However, "as the technique is modified and perfected, it is hoped the [treatment] can help achieve remission in women with advanced disease."

*Dr. Robert Lewandowksi is an associate professor of radiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

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