News | August 24, 2009

Breast Cancer Trial Examines Shorter Radiation Course

August 24, 2009 - A recently launched clinical trial focuses on a shorter course of radiation treatment for those with early-stage breast cancer.

In this study, researchers at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ), a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, women who are not suitable for PBI alone will receive a shorter course of WBI. The daily radiation dose to be delivered will be higher in the WBI treatment than in the standard course.

Lead investigator of the study Atif Khan, M.D., a radiation oncologist at CINJ and assistant professor of radiation oncology at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, indicated that by offering a more accelerated course of radiation over a shorter period of time, doctors hope to provide another option to those patients who are not good candidates for partial breast irradiation (PBI).

Studies have shown that giving radiation therapy to the breast after the cancer is removed through surgery (lumpectomy) helps keep the disease from coming back in that area. The current treatment standard is known as whole breast irradiation (WBI), in which radiation is targeted at the entire breast. It is given for five days a week for five to seven weeks. PBI is also used, but is only targeted to the area of the breast where the lumpectomy was performed. This treatment is given twice a day for five days. Many patients, however, are not suitable candidates for PBI, and thus require WBI, which can be burdensome for many women due to the length of treatment.

Before taking part in the trial, interested participants will undergo a physical exam, mammogram, chest x-ray and other tests. Participants who are selected will have radiation treatment to the whole breast once a day for 11 days. They will also receive four treatments to the immediate area where the lumpectomy was performed either before or after the whole breast treatments. The entire treatment course will be complete in three weeks. Following treatment, participants will have follow-up physical exams and a mammogram at regular intervals for the next five years.

Women over age 18 who are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and have had or are going to have a lumpectomy to remove the disease, are eligible to participate, although other criteria also must be met.

Clinical trials, often called cancer research studies, test new treatments and new ways of using existing treatments for cancer. At CINJ, researchers use these studies to answer questions about how a treatment affects the human body and to make sure it is safe and effective. There are several types of clinical trials currently underway at CINJ, including those that diagnose, treat, prevent, and manage symptoms of cancer. Many treatments used today, whether drugs or vaccines; ways to do surgery or give radiation therapy; or combinations of treatments, are the results of past clinical trials.

As New Jersey's only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, CINJ offers patients access to treatment options not available at other institutions within the state. CINJ currently enrolls more than 1,000 patients on clinical trials, including approximately 15 percent of all new adult cancer patients and approximately 70 percent of all pediatric cancer patients. Enrollment in these studies nationwide is fewer than five percent of all adult cancer patients.

For more information: www.cinj.org

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