A radiation oncologist from the University of Louisville presented the short-term findings of a 5-year-long Phase II clinical trial on the benefits of post-lumpectomy irradiation compared to daily radiation during the recently concluded Breast Cancer Symposium, held in San Francisco.
Dr. Anthony E. Dragun, the Vice Chair and associate professor of radiation oncology at the university, began the trial 3 years ago at the university’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center, an affiliate of KentuckyOne Health. It is the also the only cancer care center to offer this experimental treatment plan for breast cancer, which entails weekly radiation therapy after undergoing a lumpectomy.
According to Dr. Dragun, this approach to breast cancer treatment offers the following benefits:
- More convenient
- Higher likelihood of completion of radiation
- Same cosmetic outcome
Dr. Dragun launched this experiment after collating and analyzing data from Europe that showed the improved efficacy of weekly radiation sessions. In place of once-a-day sessions over a month-long period, patients would undergo 5-6 sessions once a week — a clear improvement in terms of convenience for patients.
The trial began in 2011 and proceeded with 150 female patients diagnosed with breast cancer. These patients, after undergoing a lumpectomy, were asked to choose how they would like to proceed with their radiation therapy — either the traditional daily sessions, or the experimental once-a-week.
For the weekly treatments, the study modified the doses of radiation to a safer, more tolerable level. There were no incidences of adverse side effects, and whatever patient outcomes were observed were found to be similar to those of daily radiation treatments.
Dr. Dragun commented that giving patients a choice with how to proceed with their disease management makes them feel more empowered and in control, thereby increasing the chances of treatment completion. This study recognizes the burden of having to come in for daily treatments, especially now that women are more actively engaged in society and busier in their homes.
A weekly appointment will not only prove to be more convenient to the modern woman, but will also be more cost-friendly, considering these treatments are reimbursed on a per-treatment basis. This method allows a 50%-60% reduction in cost, sans a reduction in efficacy.
Dr. Dragun will be enrolling an additional 50 participants from Louisville, and another 30 once the second KentuckyOne Health site opens. Once this 5-year clinical trial is completed, he plans to conduct the next phase in other states.
According to a study conducted by researchers from MD Anderson, postmenopausal women have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, especially those who are obese, as estrogen levels tend to spike because of excess peripheral fat. This alteration in estrogen serves as fuel for breast tumor cells.