Project details

Researcher: Professor Ian Kunkler

Location: University of Edinburgh

Project title: Finding better ways to ensure DCIS doesn’t come back as invasive breast cancer

Key area: Treatments

The challenge

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive form of breast cancer. It is estimated that up to 50% of DCIS cases will develop into invasive breast cancer if left untreated. It is important to ensure that all women who are considered to be at high risk of cancer recurrence are offered the best treatment to prevent DCIS coming back and becoming invasive.

The science behind the project

When DCIS is limited to a small area, the usual treatment is breast conserving surgery, also known as lumpectomy, removing only the small affected area of the breast. It is followed by a course of radiotherapy to the whole breast in patients who have a high chance their DCIS might return. This is to ensure DCIS doesn’t come back and doesn’t progress to invasive breast cancer. Researchers leading an international trial, called BIG 3.07, want to find out if an additional boost of radiation to the area where DCIS has been removed from would be beneficial to patients by helping to reduce the chance of recurrence even further.

The overall aim of the trial is to individualise radiotherapy for patients treated by breast conserving surgery and radiotherapy. The BIG 3.07 trial has already finished recruiting more than 1,600 women with DCIS. Funding from Breast Cancer Now will allow Professor Kunkler and his team to follow up the UK participants and evaluate the long-term effects of radiotherapy boost on the risk of cancer coming back, as well as its effect on breast appearance and the patients’ quality of life.

What difference will this project make?

The BIG 3.07 trial is likely to be the largest international trial evaluating the role of a boost radiation dose following breast conserving surgery and whole breast radiotherapy. The results of this trial will establish whether the extra boost dose of radiotherapy decreases the chance of DCIS coming back or progressing to invasive breast cancer. Ultimately, this will help doctors to identify the best way to improve the chances of survival for individual patients whilst maintaining good quality of life.

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