Project details

Researcher: Professor Ian Kunkler

Location: University of Edinburgh

Project cost: £79,002

The challenge

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is an early form of breast cancer. The breast cancer cells remain in the ducts and don’t have the ability to spread into surrounding tissue. It is estimated that up to half of DCIS cases will develop into invasive breast cancer if left untreated. It is important to ensure that all women who are at high risk of breast cancer recurrence are offered the best treatment to prevent DCIS coming back and becoming an invasive breast cancer.

The science behind the project

When DCIS is limited to a small area the treatment is usually breast conserving surgery, removing only the affected area of the breast. It may be followed by a course of radiotherapy to the whole breast if there is a high chance DCIS might return.

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 could help to reduce the chance of recurrence even further. The BIG 3.07 trial has recruited more than 1,600 women with DCIS.

Professor Ian Kunkler from the University of Edinburgh and his team are following up with UK participants to evaluate the long-term effects of radiotherapy boost on the risk of cancer coming back, breast appearance and quality of life.

Initial results from the trial, announced in 2020, showed that the radiotherapy boost reduced the chances of breast cancer returning in the chest, breast, or armpit area. Now, researchers want to continue following up with trial participants to see if these benefits are maintained long-term.

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. This will help doctors to identify the best way to improve the chances of survival for individual patients whilst maintaining good quality of life.

Breast Cancer Now’s vital research is only possible thanks to the incredible generosity of its supporters. This project’s funding was supported by the Asda Tickled Pink campaign.

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