U.K. team confirms safety of weekly breast radiation therapy

2016 09 14 10 18 39 979 Uk Flag 400

A larger, weekly dose of radiation therapy has side effects that are comparable with those from conventional daily treatments for early-stage breast cancer, said U.K. researchers, who shared their findings on 21 October at the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

The group, led by Dr. Murray Brunt of the University Hospitals of North Midlands and Keele University, evaluated the condition of 915 women who had undergone breast conservation surgery and subsequently opted for radiation therapy at one of 18 centers across the U.K.

An initial report on the two-year results of this Faster Radiotherapy for Breast Cancer Patients (FAST) trial suggested that larger, weekly doses -- known as hypofractionation -- led to few adverse effects on breast tissue. Patients in the study were divided to receive several different protocols:

  • A conventional protocol of 50 Gy in 25 fractions of 2 Gy per day
  • A hypofractionated protocol of 30 Gy in five fractions of 6 Gy once a week
  • A hypofractionated protocol of 28.5 Gy in five fractions of 5.7 Gy once a week during a five-week period

The study presented at ASTRO 2018 was a 10-year follow-up report, in which Brunt and colleagues confirmed their earlier findings: that the incidence of side effects was similarly low among the three groups, with minimal changes to normal tissue in 86% of the women after 10 years.

However, the 30-Gy weekly protocol did trigger statistically significant increases in long-term moderate to severe side effects such as breast shrinkage and fluid buildup. After accounting for fractionation sensitivity, the 30-Gy protocol (equivalent to 57.3 Gy over the five-week period) delivered a higher dose than the other two protocols, which may have contributed to this increase in adverse effects, Brunt noted.

"These results support treatment options that are more convenient for patients, resulting in fewer hospital visits and less expensive health services, without increasing the risk of long-term side effects," co-author Joanne Haviland said in a statement.

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