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Study at Fox Chase Cancer Center Compares Whole Breast and Partial Breast Radiation for Lumpectomy Patients

PHILADELPHIA (Aug. 29, 2006)-- Fox Chase Cancer Center is taking part in a nationwide clinical study comparing the effectiveness of two radiation treatment methods for women with early stage breast cancer who have undergone breast conservation surgery commonly called a lumpectomy. Researchers want to know if either method of radiation therapy is better at preventing a recurrence of cancer.

Studies show that giving radiation therapy to the breast after a lumpectomy reduces the risk of cancer coming back. This is called whole breast radiation. The radiation is delivered once a day, five times a week for 5 to 7 weeks.

"In our study, we'll compare whole breast radiation to partial breast radiation," says Gary Freedman, MD, a radiation oncologist and principal investigator of the study at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Partial breast radiation is given only to the area of the breast where the cancer was removed. The radiation is given twice a day for 5 days during a 10-day period.

"Early studies show that partial breast radiation may work as well as whole breast radiation," explains Freedman. "However, there has not been a study that directly compares these two methods of treatment."

Freedman says the time commitment of 5 to 7 weeks for whole breast irradiation after a lumpectomy is a barrier for some women who are considering their treatment options. Since radiation isn't necessary after a mastectomy, some women opt for this more aggressive surgery where the whole breast is removed.

"If we can shorten the time needed for radiation, perhaps more women would choose conservative therapy," says Freedman. "But first, we have to find out if partial breast radiation is as good as or better than whole breast radiation in keeping cancer from coming back."

There are two different methods of partial breast radiation that are being used in this study: MammoSite. balloon catheter and 3D conformal external beam irradiation.

The MammoSite balloon method uses one tube with a small balloon on the end. The balloon is put in the place where the tumor was removed. The balloon is filled with salt water so it fits this space. The tube extends from the breast and is connected to a machine that delivers radioactive seeds. The seeds travel through the tube into the center of the balloon. The seeds are removed at the end of each treatment. The tube and the balloon filled with salt water will stay in your breast until the 10 radiation therapy treatments are done.

3-D conformal external beam irradiation uses a beam of radiation to deliver the radiation therapy dose. It is pointed to the place in the breast where the cancer was removed.

In addition to studying the effectiveness of partial breast irradiation, researchers have an additional objective.

"Another important component of the study is how the women feel about the appearance of their breast after treatment," says Freedman.

The women in this study will be randomized by computer to receive either whole breast irradiation or one of two methods being studied for partial breast irradiation.

There are side effects with each treatment that will be discussed with the patient at the time of enrollment in the study. More common side effects include mild redness and swelling of the breast.

The National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project and the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group are sponsors of this study.


Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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