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Six Weeks of Radiation Therapy May be Unnecessary for Many Breast Cancer Patients | NEWS-Line for Radiology Professionals

Six Weeks of Radiation Therapy May be Unnecessary for Many Breast Cancer Patients


Groundbreaking European Study by Dr. Umberto Veronesi Proves a Single Dose of Radiation can be Equal to the Traditional Six-week Course

Many women with breast cancer may not need six weeks of daily radiation after surgery. This explosive finding was made public at the recent International Society of Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (ISIORT) conference held in Madrid, Spain earlier this month.

Renowned surgeon Dr. Umberto Veronesi, founder of the European Institute of Oncology, shared, for the first time, the results of a long-awaited, eight-year randomized trial comparing his breast cancer patients' response to two types of radiation therapy. The results so far show that women who received breast conserving surgery, followed by a single dose of intraoperative electron-beam radiation therapy (IOERT) at the time of surgery, had an equal chance of survival as women who underwent the surgery, followed by six weeks of post-operative radiation therapy.

These amazing findings demonstrate that the standard radiation regimen for some lumpectomy patients already expensive, sometimes painful, and very time-consuming may be unnecessary.

Dr. Veronesi told the cancer specialists attending ISIORT from 21 countries around the world that IOERT has "obvious advantages in terms of overall treatment time, costs, patient comfort, cosmetic results and quality of life." He continued, "In my opinion, this will become the routine procedure for breast conserving therapy."

But while IOERT is quickly becoming the protocol for breast cancer radiation therapy in Europe, most American women are unaware this choice even exists. Those that dare to bring the alternative radiation treatment to their doctors' attention are experiencing resistance from hospitals unwilling to even investigate the life-saving devices that administer this treatment.

Arleen Sharwell, a breast cancer patient from Long Island, New York, did what all women do: she went to a local breast surgeon for a treatment recommendation. Arleen was told she needed a lumpectomy to remove the tumor, followed by five-to-six weeks of radiation therapy. Having heard about IOERT, Arleen asked if she was a candidate for a single-dose radiation treatment. Her doctor flatly refused to investigate or to give Arleen a referral to a hospital that did offer such a treatment.

The sad truth is that while more than twenty centers around the world are actively engaged in such a program for their patients, only one hospital in North America currently offers single-dose IOERT treatments for breast cancer: The University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Arleen reached out to UNC doctors Joel Tepper, professor and former chair of radiation oncology, and David Ollila, associate professor and surgical director for the multidisciplinary breast program and multidisciplinary melanoma program. Dr. Tepper and Dr. Ollila immediately recognized that Arleen was a candidate for the single-dose, single-day lumpectomy and IOERT treatment. To Arleen's delight, her entire breast cancer treatment was completed in one day.

Hospitals all over the world are discovering innovative applications for the procedure, for virtually every type of cancer. The benefits of IOERT for patients are numerous. By pinpointing the exact area that requires radiation, doctors can deliver a direct dose to affected tissue without passing through the surrounding healthy organs and harming them. For breast cancer patients like Arleen, this often means a single dose of radiation, followed by reconstruction, in a single surgery.

The only FDA-approved device available in North America that is capable of delivering the IOERT treatment extolled by Dr. Veronesi in an unshielded operating room is IntraOp's Mobetron. The Mobetron is the first fully portable, self-shielded linear accelerator that can be used in an existing operating room.

In addition to their breast cancer program, the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center uses the Mobetron to deliver IOERT to more than ten different types of cancer. There are four additional hospitals in the US that own the Mobetron and are planning on adding a breast cancer protocol to their ongoing IOERT program.

"I know how difficult accepting a breast cancer diagnosis can be," said Arleen Sharwell. "However, I can't stress enough how crucial it is to do your research. When I found the treatment option that I knew was best for me, I refused to let my doctor tell me no. My persistence paid off when I connected with the doctors at UNC and got the single-dose, single-day IOERT treatment I wanted."

President and CEO of IntraOp, John Powers, echoes Arleen's sentiment. "Women need to know that they do not have to suffer through six weeks of standard, daily radiation treatment. IOERT can help them get through this terrifying time in their lives much more quickly."

In IOERT treatment, the skin is protected at all times, preventing it from receiving any of the damage associated with prolonged radiation therapy. Because of this, patients who receive IOERT for cancer treatment also enjoy better cosmetic results. "Three months after surgery, I could hardly tell I had anything done. You would have thought I had plastic surgery," Arleen said.

"IOERT has been a very viable radiation therapy option for years that may now get the needed recognition with the release of Dr. Veronesi's randomized trial results," Dr. Ollila noted. "We have been performing single-dose IOERT for breast cancer patients for more than four years now and feel that it is a viable option for patients seeking to save the breast with minimal radiation exposure."

For additional information on Dr. Veronesi's study, single-dose IOERT and the Mobetron, please visit the resources page of the IntraOp website.

IntraOp Medical Corporation provides innovative technology solutions for the treatment and eradication of cancer. For more information about IntraOp Medical and the Mobetron, please visit: www.intraopmedical.com

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