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Quality Of Life

Reducing Four Weeks of Radiotherapy to One Single Treatment for Breast Cancer

Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre
Associate Professor

Farshad Foroudi

Project Description: The most common treatment regime for women with breast cancer in Australia is surgery to remove the tumour, followed by radiotherapy. At present, radiation therapy consists of 15-30 treatments over three to six weeks. Associate Professor Farshad Foroudi (Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre and La Trobe University) has developed a new, highly-focused radiation therapy requiring fewer treatment visits which could be more effective and reduce unfavourable side-effects events.

Why This Work is Needed: Radiation therapy can come with significant side effects, including hair loss, nausea, and shortness of breath. Often these side effects occur because the radiation delivery is relatively widespread, affecting areas which do not have cancer. More targeted, accurate radiation would reduce side effects, shorten treatment times, and improve patient outcomes.

Expected Outcomes: The new radiation therapy uses advanced imaging equipment and a highly focused beam to treat the cancer. This study will show if the technique is practical in women with early breast cancer and provide information on any side effects. If this initial proof of concept study is successful, a larger clinical trial will follow.

Project Details

Whilst radiation therapy is a successful treatment for breast cancer, used to reduce the size of the tumour before surgery, it has a number of potential risks. As such, more targeted radiation therapy would be beneficial to women undergoing treatment.

Using advanced imaging and treatment technologies, Associate Professor Foroudi and his team have developed a new system to improve the accuracy of radiotherapy. The system includes a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner and a linear accelerator working together. The MRI scanner has a better ability to locate the tumour, and allows highly accurate imaging of the tumour. The linear accelerator beams are then able to more tightly focus on the areas of cancer and avoid normal tissue. The system also includes a positron emission tomography (PET) marker, which detects hormone receptors within the tumour, allowing for closer targeting radiotherapy beams.

The study will use the new system to treat 30 patients with a one-off radiation treatment, prior to their surgery. This is a dramatic decrease from the normal 15-30 treatments required with standard radiotherapy. After surgery, the tumours will be examined to see the extent to which the tumours had shrunk following radiotherapy. It is hoped that this novel, more accurate radiotherapy protocol will greatly reduce treatment burden and be more effective for women with breast cancer in the future.

Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre
Associate Professor

Farshad Foroudi