The societal impact of this academic study on breast cancer could be substantial.
The results of this study could influence how 2 in 5 women with breast cancer are treated. If the study proves that certain patients do not need radiation therapy, many women affected by this disease may be spared its potential side effects; health care systems could also make significant savings. Read on to find out more about the BIG Radio Tuning study (scientific name: EXPERT).
The aim of the BIG Radio Tuning study is to better analyse the risk profile of tumours in order to identify which women could safely avoid radiation therapy in the future.
In this study, those qualifying as “low-risk” patients according to a 50-gene test will then receive either hormone treatment, or hormone treatment combined with radiation therapy. The study hopes to show that both groups do well and that, therefore, patients classified as “low-risk” according to the test may be spared radiation therapy in the future. In 2019, 29 hospitals were already actively involved out of the 90 hospitals that will participate in the study. By 19 September 2019, 231 of a total of 1,170 patients had already been included.
In the treatment of breast cancer, after surgically removing the tumour, radiation therapy is administered to patients with the goal of limiting the risk of the cancer recurring. Like adjusting your radio to find the right frequency, the BIG Radio Tuning study aims to better define the tumour’s risk profile in order to personalise the intensity of the radiation therapy, even going as far as to avoid it altogether.
Having begun in Australia and New Zealand under the leadership of Breast Cancer Trials, the study will now be extended internationally thanks to the Brussels-based Breast International Group (BIG).
The prospect of safely de-escalating radiation therapy is of great interest to many patients, who will appreciate not having to be subjected to a treatment that will not benefit them significantly if their tumours are low-risk, while ensuring that patients at greater risk of relapse do receive treatment of an appropriate intensity.
Radiation therapy has common side-effects such as fatigue, skin burns, breast tenderness, swelling and scarring, which may cause adverse aesthetic effects. Uncommonly radiation therapy may cause complications of the heart and lung, and radiation-related cancer. For low-risk patients, these side-effects could be effectively avoided in the future if the BIG Radio Tuning study demonstrates what it believes to be possible.
“More recent research in early breast cancer has focused on minimising the side-effects and practical burden of treatment without increasing a patient’s risk of breast cancer recurrence. We believe that knowledge about cancer biology can help us identify patients who can safely avoid radiation therapy, but continuing research is necessary to determine whether this is true. BIG Radio Tuning (EXPERT) sets out to answer this question through international partnership,” explains Professor Boon Chua, Principal Investigator of the EXPERT study. She is Radiation Oncologist and Director of Cancer and Haematology Services at the University of New South Wales and Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, Australia. Professor Chua is also Executive Board member of BIG and Radiation Oncology Lead of Breast Cancer Trials Australia and New Zealand.
This year, BIG is celebrating 20 years of scientific collaboration and breast cancer research.
- In Belgium, more than 10,000 women develop breast cancer each year
- 800,000 people a year worldwide develop breast cancer
- completed, with the help of BIG, by 2023Recruitment for the BIG Radio Tuning (EXPERT) study began in Australia in 2017 and should be
- Patients will be monitored for 10 years
- The total budget for this study is estimated at €6,300,000 over 17 years (the equivalent of about €1 per day per patient)