November 06, 2006 11:23 ET


Results of world’s first randomized study announced today

Attention: City Editor, Health/Medical Editor, Lifestyle Editor, Media Editor, News Editor TORONTO/ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 6, 2006) - The first in the world to provide data from multi-centre randomized trials, a new study about Breast Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (BIMRT) and its clinical benefits to reduce toxicity and severe skin reactions in breast cancer patients compared to standard radiation therapy was presented November 6, 2006 at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

"This randomized study demonstrates that delivering better radiation technique through BIMRT over standard radiation therapy improves treatment tolerance and quality of life for patients," says Dr. Jean-Philippe Pignol, lead author of the study and a radiation oncologist at Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook. "When a patient has to receive radiation treatment, one of their prime concerns is about burning of the skin of the breast. In our study, we found that with standard radiation there was a higher rate of skin burn in 50 per cent of patients. With BIMRT this painful side effect is significantly reduced."

For breast cancer patients the current model of care includes surgical removal of the cancer followed by radiation of the entire breast to kill any remaining cancer cells. The standard 'Wedge Compensation' radiation technique uses two opposing radiation beams on the breast to target the cancer. This technique can cause excess radiation of certain areas of the breast thus increasing the risk of sensitive, red, weepy skin that may blister or peel.

The IMRT technique better controls the intensity of each radiation beam to ensure the entire breast receives the exact amount of radiation prescribed, thereby minimizing damage to healthy tissue and reducing severe skin reactions. In the study, 358 patients were randomly assigned to receive either the standard breast radiation treatment or BIMRT (up to 50Gy with or without a boost of 16Gy) and were observed for six weeks after treatment. Data shows that BIMRT reduces skin burn by 18 percent throughout the breast and by 17 percent in the breast crease.

'Though more sophisticated radiation treatments have been developed since the late '90s, until now there has been no evidence that enormous research efforts had a significant impact on radiation treatment outcomes," says Pignol, also an associate professor in the departments of radiation oncology and medical biophysics at University of Toronto. "Patients should be aware that breast IMRT is now widely available and that they can significantly benefit from this innovative technique."

This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the BC Cancer Agency.

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is transforming health care through the dedication of its more than 10,000 staff members who provide compassionate and innovative patient focused care. An internationally recognized leader in women's health, academic research and education and an affiliation with the University of Toronto distinguishes Sunnybrook as one of Canada's premier health sciences centres. Sunnybrook specializes in caring for newborns, adults and the elderly, treating and preventing cancer, heart problems, orthopaedic and arthritic conditions and traumatic injuries.

Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre (TSRCC) at Sunnybrook is one of North America's largest and leading comprehensive cancer centres and offers a full range of outpatient and inpatient treatment and supportive care programs. TSRCC is a Cancer Care Ontario partner and is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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