According to University of Edinburgh scientists, some older breast cancer patients can bypass radiotherapy without compromising their chances of survival.
In their study published in the Lancet Oncology, the team found that older women who are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and receive breast-conserving surgery along with hormone therapy, do not particularly benefit from radiation therapy. These results imply that a very specific group of patients can avoid unwanted side effects associated with radiation therapy, such as fatigue and cardiac damage. “This makes omission of radiotherapy an option for selected older patients”, study author Professor Ian Kunkler, Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre, said in a University’s news release.
Current treatment for older women who have early hormone-sensitive breast cancer includes surgery for tumor removal followed by hormone and radiation therapy.
Up to now, there have not been sufficient clinical studies evaluating the benefits of radiation therapy in this particular group of women.
The research team designed an international, randomized, controlled clinical study, analyzing a total of 1,326 patients (older than 65 years of age) who had been diagnosed with early-stage hormone-receptor positive breast cancers.
Furthermore, these patients had already received surgery for breast tumor resection, and did not present lymph node metastasis.
To evaluate the benefits of radiation therapy on these patients, two groups were formed: one received radiotherapy along with hormone therapy, and the other received hormone therapy alone.
After a follow-up of 5 years, approximately 96% of women in both study groups were still alive, and the majority of observed deaths were not caused directly by their tumors.
Importantly, the team concluded that within the group of women who received radiation therapy, roughly 1% had cancer recurrence, when compared to 4% in the group who did not receive radiation.
“While radiotherapy will remain the standard of care for most women after breast-conserving surgery, the absolute reduction in risk of recurrence from radiotherapy in low risk older women receiving hormone treatment is very modest”, added Professor Kunkler.