We respond to research suggesting radiotherapy during surgery could save millions of travel miles for patients and tonnes of CO2.

Monday 9 May 2016      Research
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According to new research published today in the online journal BMJ Open, one targeted dose of radiotherapy given during surgery to treat early stage breast cancer could help save patients millions of travel miles, and "enough CO2 emissions for a 100 hectare forest".

Standard treatment for early stage breast cancer is surgical removal of the cancerous tissue (lumpectomy), followed by a course of (external) radiotherapy beamed onto the affected breast every day for between three and six weeks.

Single-dose targeted intraoperative radiotherapy (TARGIT) is delivered by an applicator directly into the breast tissue during surgery. This adds around 20 to 40 minutes to the operating time, but could help patients avoid the subsequent need for daily hospital visits to complete a standard course of radiotherapy. Early results from a clinical trial of TARGIT published in 2014 suggested that it may be no less effective than the standard course of external beam radiotherapy, but clinical trials are continuing to enable researchers to fully understand the long-term outcomes for patients.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now said:

"While this study suggests intraoperative radiotherapy could be more cost-effective for patients and the environment, what we really need is greater evidence of its clinical effectiveness.

“If intraoperative radiotherapy was actually proven to work, it could allow some patients to be safely spared multiple cycles of radiotherapy after surgery. As such, delivering targeted radiotherapy during surgery – instead of after – could help minimise the impacts of unnecessary travel to and from specialist hospitals for patients.

“This technology is currently undergoing appraisal by NICE. However, with current uncertainties in the clinical evidence, NICE reported in November that more research is needed before it can be considered for use on the NHS. We now await further results from clinical trials.”