Oncology, surgery

Trial of one-dose radiation therapy for breast cancer

20 May 2007

Doctors at four UK hospitals are conducting a trial of a technique to reduce radiotherapy treatment for breast cancer from several weeks to one 30-minute session during surgery.

The trial of the intraoperative radiation involves three London hospitals, University College London Hospitals (UCLH), Guy's and the Royal Free, and Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. The trial will involve 800 women volunteers and is expected to take two years to obtain results.

The technique was described in a thesis by Jayant Shayad Vaidya, a student at UCLH, in 2001, and now Senior Lecturer and Consultant Surgeon at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

The technique employs a miniature electron beam-driven x-ray source  that delivers low energy x-ray radiation directly to the tumour site through a thin tube with a sphere on the end. Depending upon the size of the surgical cavity, various sizes of spheres are available and for each size, the radiation received is proportional to the time the machine is switched on and left in situ. The precise dose rate depends on the diameter of the applicator and the energy of the beam, both of which may be varied to optimise the radiation treatment.

The radiation is quickly absorbed within the tissues, which reduces the damage to surrounding normal tissues and minimises the need for radiation protection to the operating personnel.

If the technique is successful it could completely remove the need for radiotherapy after breast cancer surgery, thereby cutting the workload of radiotherapy departments.

The thesis is available at: www.personal.dundee.ac.uk/~jsvaidya/papers/thesis.pdf

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