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Campaign for One Dose Breast Cancer Treatment Funding

Media Release

24th February 2014

Surgeon Campaigns for One Dose, One Time Early Stage Breast Cancer Treatment to be Funded in New Zealand

The surgeon who introduced a revolutionary one dose, one time treatment for early-stage breast cancer to New Zealand is campaigning for it to be made available through the public health system.

Last year Auckland Breast Surgeon Dr Erica Whineray Kelly and a team of Auckland breast cancer specialists formed their own service, Focus Radiotherapy, to bring the new treatment option, using the Zeiss Intrabeam intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) system, to the Southern Cross Hospital, North Harbour Auckland, but they want to make it available to women across the country through the health service.

The Intrabeam intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) system avoids the traditional 3–6 week course of radiation therapy for 80% of patients and eliminates the need for up to a further 25 visits to hospital for post-operative radiotherapy. This is much more convenient for patients, would save the health service money and could dramatically reduce waiting lists.

Dr Erica Whineray Kelly says: `This may be an excellent therapy option for women having breast-conserving surgery. We are the first and only centre in New Zealand offering this revolutionary treatment. The goal of this approach is to destroy remaining cancer cells, helping to prevent the possibility of recurrence – and in most cases – eliminating the need for weeks of radiation treatments. We’re working hard to introduce this to the public health system.’

Under a dozen New Zealand women have received treatment so far although Intrabeam is a viable option for the thousands of women aged over fifty with grade 1-2 breast cancer seeking treatment In New Zealand.

At the time of the introduction of the treatment, in October last year, Chairperson of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC), Libby Burgess, said Intrabeam is a wonderful innovation for women with low-risk early breast cancer: ‘The delivery of surgery and radiotherapy during a single operation will eliminate weeks of daily trips to the clinic, allowing women to avoid ongoing stress and inconvenience and return to their normal lives much faster.

‘The precise targeting of radiation to the area that the tumour was removed from will avoid unnecessary radiation to healthy tissue. I’m delighted to see this option being offered to New Zealand women’, Ms Burgess says.

Currently only women who have early-stage breast cancer, have negative lymph nodes and are 50 and older may be candidates for Intrabeam. The clinically documented treatment delivers a single fraction of radiotherapy in 20-30 minutes during the time of lumpectomy. Other forms of radiation therapy can require three to six weeks of treatment.

Localizing the radiation inside the breast is effective because this is where cancer is most likely to recur. The international TARGIT research group has been investigating this new method of delivering radiotherapy for breast cancer in which the treatment can be delivered at the time of surgical lumpectomy since 1988. The results of the trial show the overall number of recurrences of the cancer was very low[1].

Benefits of INTRABEAM
• A reduction in radiation treatment time for the patient
• Minimized exposure to healthy tissue and organs, such as the ribs, lungs, heart and opposite breast
• No treatment delay for patients who must also undergo chemotherapy as part of their breast cancer treatment
• Same-day treatment with no hospitalisation required
• No travel required to a radiotherapy centre for up to six weeks of daily treatment

[1] Vaidya JS, Joseph DJ, Tobias JS, Bulsara M, Wenz F, Saunders C, et al. Targeted intraoperative radiation therapy versus whole breast radiation therapy for breast cancer (TARGIT-A trial): an international, prospective, randomised, non-inferiority phase 3 trial. The Lancet 2010; 376: 91 - 102
Vaidya et al. “Targeted intraoperative radiation therapy for early breast cancer: TARGIT-A trial – updated analysis of local recurrence and first analysis of survival”. San Antonio meeting 2012, S4-2.

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