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Fewer radiotherapy doses safe in long term

Wednesday July 15th 2020

Radiotherapy for breast cancer can sometimes be just as effective when given in fewer but larger doses, according to a new UK study.

A team at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, UK, carried out a long term trial in which 915 patients were given either five fractions of 5.7 Gy and 6.0 Gy radiotherapy, or 25 fractions of 2.0 Gy radiotherapy.

Participants had radiotherapy to the whole breast after local surgery to remove an early stage tumour. They were recruited between 2004 and 2007, and have been followed for at least a decade to observe relapse rates and effects on normal tissue.

Details of the outcomes were published yesterday (14 July) in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

After three years, it was found that reducing the number of radiotherapy fractions to five was feasible and safe in the short term.

These ten-year results now show that this treatment strategy is as safe as the standard method in the long term, as side-effects remain low, the researchers say.

The researchers say that fewer treatment sessions “particularly benefit patients at low risk of relapse who cannot tolerate daily radiation over long periods of time because of frailty or other chronic conditions”.

They add: “The ten-year study offers reassurance to these women over the long-term safety of the approach.”

Study co-leader Professor Judith Bliss said: “These findings have supported a change in clinical practice that is already helping relieve pressures on the NHS – and it is great to see that after so many years, side effects from fewer but larger doses of radiation are still low.”

Bliss, J. et al. Journal of Clinical Oncology 14 July 2020

Tags: Cancer | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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