A new device, the SAVI applicator, is being used at the Montana Cancer Center at Providence St. Patrick Hospital, where it recently successfully treated a 68-year-old Missoula woman suffering from breast cancer.
This is a multi-catheter device that uses breast brachytherapy to target the tumor site from inside the breast, shortening radiation treatment time from seven weeks to five days.
The device is implanted into the breast through a small surgical incision, allowing the physician to adjust the radiation dose to be delivered, according to the size and shape of the area to be treated. A small piece of a radioactive isotope of iridium is then sent through the catheters by a computer.
Breast brachytherapy usually involves two treatments a day for a total length of five days. Furthermore, this type of therapy can significantly diminish undesirable radiation therapy side effects, since it can be specifically targeted at the particular areas affected by the tumor, eliminating only cancerous cells and leaving the healthy tissue surrounding it intact.
The use of brachytherapy after lumpectomy is an increasingly popular breast cancer treatment, however data relative to its effectiveness are still conflicting and the criteria for patient selection to receive brachytherapy have not yet been effectively validated.
“We know the traditional treatment works,” Dr. Jeffrey Stephenson, a radiation oncologist at St. Patrick who was recruited because of his SAVI expertise, said in a Missoulian news release. “But women are active. Sharon (the patient) had all this stuff to deal with, and she could have all her treatments done in time for her trip. It’s convenience. Women are working, they live far away, like in Hamilton or Polson. So, six-and-a-half weeks of driving back and forth is a big problem,” he concluded.
Cianna Medical Inc., a women’s health company dedicated to the early treatment of breast cancer, developed the SAVI technology, which stands for “strut adjusted volume implant”. Even though this applicator cannot be used for tumors that have already metastasized to the lymph nodes, current advances made in self-exams, regular checkups and other early detection methods, will allow more women to get diagnosed before the tumor has reached that level of development.
The SAVI applicator will allow physicians to design radiation treatments that are specific for each individual patient, increasing the number of women who are eligible for treatment.