High-dose radiation therapy over a short period of time treats early stage breast cancer as well as longer, conventional radiation therapy does, a new study suggests.
Researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center–Temple Health in Philadelphia report that eight years after treatment, there were no significant differences in survival among hundreds of patients who received intense radiation therapy over four weeks or standard radiation therapy over six to seven weeks.
“This is good news for cancer patients because a shorter length of treatment is not only more convenient, but it helps to enable a woman to get her life back to normal after breast cancer treatment,” said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“At this time, the shorter radiation therapy is offered to a select group of women,” Bernik added. “With more and more studies showing equivalence, the hope is that this therapy can be expanded to women with even more aggressive cancers.”
The findings were to be presented Tuesday at the American Society for Radiation Oncology annual meeting, in San Antonio, Texas.
Radiation therapy significantly reduces the risk of local cancer recurrence and improves the chances of survival, but many breast cancer patients don’t get standard radiation therapy because it takes a long time and has higher costs, the researchers said.
Intense radiation therapy shortens treatment by weeks and is far less expensive for patients, the study authors explained.
“This is an important study showing the benefits of accelerated radiation for this disease,” said Dr. Jonathan Haas, chief of the division of radiation oncology at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. “If the radiation is more precise and more convenient, this translates into much better medicine for the patient.”
The data and conclusions of research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer treatment.