Breast cancer patients who have radiotherapy targeted at the original tumour site experience fewer side effects five years after treatment than those who have whole breast radiotherapy, and their cancer is just as unlikely to return, a new study has found.

Wednesday 2 August 2017      Research
Woman having radiotherapy

The IMPORT LOW trial, funded by Cancer Research UK, revealed that five years after treatment, almost all patients were disease free. The researchers at 30 radiotherapy centres across the UK, led by The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, studied more than 2,000 women aged 50 or over who had early stage breast cancer that was at a low risk of coming back.

Following breast conserving surgery, some patients were treated with whole breast radiotherapy – the clinical standard – while others received partial breast radiotherapy. Women who received partial radiotherapy reported fewer long term changes to the appearance and feel of their breast, than those who had radiotherapy to the whole breast.

Dr Richard Berks, Senior Research Communications Officer at Breast Cancer Now said:

“This is a major step forward. This important study shows that, for some women, targeted radiotherapy is just as effective as whole breast radiotherapy in preventing the disease returning within five years, while minimising some of their side-effects.

“Crucially, the ability to safely focus radiotherapy to where the original tumour had been could now make a real difference to some patients’ recovery as they embark on life after treatment.

“This is a great example of how cancer treatments can be tailored to patients to reduce the impact of side-effects, without compromising their effectiveness – and we await future results to confirm whether these benefits continue beyond five years post-treatment.

“We now look forward to this targeted approach to radiotherapy being implemented more widely for selected patients across the UK.”