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Curtailed radiotherapy

UK cancer treatment specialists were able to deliver less radiation, in a shorter amount of time, to patients undergoing radiation therapy following breast cancer surgery, according to a study presented at the 2007 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

“It is likely that patients can be safely and effectively treated to a lower total dose with fewer fractions,” said Dr John Dewar, a clinical oncologist from the University of Dundee in Dundee, Scotland. The current radiation regimen for women with stage T1-3, N0-1, M0 disease is 50 Gy in 25 fractions over a five-week period, he said.

“We initiated the START trials (Standardisation of Breast Radiotherapy) to see if we could reduce the time to undergo treatment,” Dewar said at an ASCO press briefing. The researchers recruited patients from 35 UK centres from 1999 to 2002.

“Cancer control in the breast was very effective in all groups,” Dewar said. “About 3.4% of the women had a relapse in the same breast after five years — less than 1% per year.” No statistically significant differences were found among any of the groups in recurrence rates, he said.

“What this means is that we can deliver less radiation in less time and still maintain very effective cancer control,” he added.