Radiotherapy: tailoring treatment to patient needs

Portrait of Boon Chua, member of the BIG executive board and working as a Radiation oncologist

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For many years, radiotherapy has been an integral part of treatment for early stage and advanced breast cancer, and remarkable technological advances over the last three decades have improved treatment precision and decreased toxicity.

Research has shown that, after breast conserving surgery, conventional daily radiotherapy for five to six weeks has no safety or effectiveness benefits over modestly larger daily doses of radiation typically given over three weeks. The newer approach, called hypofractionated radiotherapy, has obvious advantages for patients and healthcare providers.

“Hypofractionated whole breast radiotherapy is being adopted as a standard of care for women with early breast cancer in an increasing number of countries,” explains Professor Boon Chua, radiation oncologist and director of Cancer and Haematology Services, University of New South Wales and Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, Australia.

Patients at low risk of recurrence may only need partial breast irradiation, targeting the primary tumour site where recurrence is most likely to occur and further accelerating treatment to one week or less.

“I think the future of personalised radiotherapy will be driven by integrating our current knowledge with new understanding of tumour biology and efficacy of systemic therapy in a multidisciplinary setting,” says Chua.

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