Stanford trial studies vastly shorter radiation time for breast cancer treatment

November 20, 2002

STANFORD, Calif. - A new radiation approach being tested at Stanford University Medical Center could shorten the overall treatment time for women with breast cancer. Participants will receive a single dose of radiation at the time of surgery rather than the usual six-week course of radiation therapy. The clinical trial is now recruiting patients.

"The trial should tell us whether this accelerated form of radiotherapy is safe, feasible and effective in controlling cancer recurrence in the breast for certain women who have a lumpectomy," said Frederick Dirbas, MD, assistant professor of surgical oncology at the Stanford School of Medicine and leader of the trial.

Women with a breast tumor often have a lumpectomy, surgery in which the doctor removes only the cancerous region, leaving the rest of the breast intact. The patient then receives a dose of radiation to the entire breast each weekday for about the next six weeks to minimize the risk of cancer returning.

"The fact that current radiation treatments occur every day for several weeks makes it an issue for women," Dirbas said, adding that the schedule can be inconvenient for women who work, care for young children or live far from the treatment site. He said the idea behind this prolonged schedule was that women would experience fewer side effects if the total radiation dose was broken into smaller increments.

In recent years, however, doctors in the United States and Europe have begun looking at approaches to shorten the overall treatment time while still fending off cancer. In one Italian trial with more than 100 participants, patients received a single large dose of radiation at the same time as the surgery. Two years after the initial surgery, the treatment appears to be safe and effective.

Based on this success, Dirbas and Donald Goffinet, MD, professor of radiation oncology, are replicating the Italian trial - the first U.S. trial of this technique. They hope to recruit 50 women who are older than 40, have a single breast tumor that is smaller than 2.5 centimeters and have a low likelihood of tumors elsewhere in the breast.

For information about participating in the trial, please call Janelle Maxwell at 650-498-7740.
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Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. For more information, please visit the Web site of the medical center's Office of Communication & Public Affairs at http://mednews.stanford.edu.

Stanford University Medical Center

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