Trimming Breast Cancer Radiation Time
Stronger Doses Less Often May Be OK, Study Suggests
March 18, 2008 -- A shorter, stronger schedule of breast cancer radiation
treatment may be comparable to standard treatment, two new studies show.
But the researchers aren't ready to cut down breast cancer radiation
recommendations just yet. First, they want to check for long-term side
The new studies, called the START (Standardization of Breast Radiotherapy)
trials, included more than 4,400 U.K. women with breast cancer.
The women had already gotten breast cancer surgery. They all got radiation
to help prevent breast cancer recurrence.
Some of the women got a standard, five-week course of radiation therapy.
Others followed one of three other radiation plans which used stronger doses
less often for three or five weeks.
The women were followed for up to eight years. During that time, they got
annual checkups to screen for recurrence and radiation-related changes in
normal breast tissue.
Breast Cancer Radiation: How Strong, How Long?
The odds of relapse and breast changes (such as breast appearance) were
equally low with both radiation schedules.
Longer studies lasting 15-20 years are needed to track the long-term safety
of stronger, shorter radiation doses, note the researchers. They included
clinical oncology professor John Yarnold, MD, of the Royal Marsden Hospital in
An editorial published with the studies agrees that more research is
"We realize that [stronger, shorter radiation] is convenient for
patients, because it reduces the number of visits to radiotherapy departments
and waiting lists in several cancer centers," the editorial states.
"Nevertheless, we have to wait for data on longer follow-up before final
conclusions can be drawn from the START trials."
Professor Harry Bartelink, MD, PhD, chairman of the Netherlands Cancer
Institute's radiotherapy division, wrote the editorial.