BRAVEHeart – empowering breast cancer radiotherapy patients to save their hearts

Start Year: 2017
Finish Year: 2019
Chief Investigator: Dr Elizabeth Steiner
Grant Type: Pilot Study Grant
Institution: University of Sydney

More than 15,000 women in Australia were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. For more than 13,000 of them radiotherapy is recommended, while recent large cohort studies raised concerns about increased risks for cardiac diseases of between 7-20% resulting from radiotherapy to the left breast compared to the right breast. For patients, who were diagnosed when <50 years old (more than 20% of the new cases), the risks for cardiovascular diseases/events from radiotherapy to the left breast were increased by 24-82%.

Elizabeth Steiner
Dr Elizabeth Steiner

As a result, the deep inspiration breath hold (DIBH) technique aims to minimise the heart dose and subsequently reduce the damage. Patients are asked to repeatedly hold their breath for 20 seconds at a time during radiotherapy, thus moving their hearts out of the radiation beams. Giving patients visual feedback of their breathing via a screen has demonstrated to improve the breath hold reproducibility and stability. To date only half of the Australian clinics have implemented DIBH treatments and 30% of them provide the patients with an in-house jerry-rigged feedback screen as there is no commercial product available. Within the pilot study BRAVEHeart (Breast Radiotherapy Audio Visual Enhancement for sparing the Heart) the new, easy to use system ‘Breathe Well’ is being developed and will be benchmarked against a commercially available solution with in-house modifications for a visual patient feedback. ‘Breathe Well’ aims to empower all Australian breast cancer patients to save their hearts using an automated, efficient, accurate and patient-friendly visual breath hold guidance.