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Cancer Research

Study confirms shorter radiotherapy course best option for women with breast cancer

Results from over four thousand women were studied as part of the landmark ‘START’ research in the UK.

RESULTS FROM TEN years of study have shown that giving radiotherapy as a lower overall dose in fewer, higher doses over a shorter time is at least as effective as the current standard for most women with early breast cancer.

Over four thousand women in the UK took part in the ‘START’ research, which began in 1999. Some were given the international standard five week course of radiotherapy. Another group was given the shorter (or hypofractionated) course with higher doses.

According to Professor John Yarnold of The Institute of Cancer Research, who led the study:

These 10-year results reassure us that 3 weeks of radiotherapy is as good as the 5 weeks still used in many countries, with less damage to nearby healthy tissue, as well as being more convenient for women (shorter waiting lists and fewer hospital visits) and cheaper for health services.

The results showed that there was little difference in the percentage of sufferers who experienced a relapse between the groups examined.

“The upshot is that—contrary to conventional thinking—cancer cells are just as sensitive to the size of daily radiotherapy dose as the normal tissues responsible for late onset side effects, meaning that the continued use of traditional lower doses spares the cancer as much as the healthy tissue, offering no benefit to patients,” Yarnold said.

The full study is published in medical journal The Lancet Oncology this morning.

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