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Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer

Proton beam therapy is currently being tested by British researchers to see if it can benefit people with breast cancer. The treatment may be superior to conventional radiotherapy for some patients, according to research.

After receiving conventional treatment, a small percentage of breast cancer patients are more likely to develop long-term heart issues. Offering these patients proton beam therapy, which can more precisely target radiotherapy beams, is hoped to maximize “on-target” radiation to the heart while delivering sufficient radiotherapy to breast tissue.

After surgery, 30,000 breast cancer patients are offered radiotherapy each year in the UK. High energy x-rays are used in conventional radiotherapy to kill cancer cells and lower the risk of the condition recurring.

Brief Overview of Trials

22 sites in the UK will host the 192 participants for the trial. Only those who are predicted to have a lifetime risk of developing heart problems as a result of radiotherapy at least 2% will participate. This category includes about 500 out of every 30,000 patients who receive radiotherapy for breast cancer.

To avoid the need for years of follow-up, scientists will measure the radiation dose given to the heart as an early indicator of potential heart problems. In the UK, 30,000 breast cancer patients are given the option of radiotherapy after surgery.

Traditional radiotherapy is effective for the majority of patients, but for less than 1% of those receiving it, it can cause heart problems in later life. This typically occurs either because the patient already has an elevated risk of heart issues or because the breast tissue and lymph nodes that need radiotherapy treatment are found nearby the heart.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust are in charge of the trial. Proton beam therapy may be administered at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust or The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester.

Although traditional radiotherapy is effective for the majority of patients, due to the proximity of the heart to the lymph nodes and breast tissue, it can cause heart problems in less than 1% of those who receive it.

Some patients already have an increased risk of developing heart issues. Scientists want to determine whether patients will benefit from proton beam therapy, which targets tumors with charged particles rather than x-rays precisely.

The trial, which is being directed by academics from the Universities of Cambridge, London’s Institute of Cancer Research, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, will involve nearly 200 patients.

Patients will be treated at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust or The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester, with accommodations offered to those traveling a long distance. The National Institute for Health and Care Research and the Medical Research Council is funding the trial.

Words of Expert

A higher risk of heart problems later in life affects only a very small percentage of people, but it can still be a serious problem, according to trial chief investigator Professor Charlotte Coles of the University of Cambridge.

“The majority of radiotherapy patients have decades of healthy life ahead of them, so we need to take every precaution to prevent any potential heart issues related to the treatment in the future.”

Proton beam therapy may be a better option for a small subset of patients for whom standard breast radiotherapy is not as effective and has fewer side effects.

Prof. Jonathan Wadsley, national specialty lead for radiotherapy and imaging at the National Institute for Health and Care Research, which funded the trial, declared that “The UK is leading the way.”

According to trial chief investigator Professor Charlotte Coles of the University of Cambridge, “Although only a very small group of people are affected by a higher risk of heart problems later in life, it can still be a serious issue.”

The majority of radiotherapy patients have decades of healthy life ahead of them, so Ms. Coles continued, “We need to do everything we can to prevent any potential future heart problems related to treatment.”

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