Lower Dose Radiotherapy For Cancer
"Fewer doses of radiation still beat cancer" reads the headline in The Independent. Findings from two trials carried out over 10 years and involving 4,500 women may lead to "a revolution in radiotherapy treatment for breast cancer," the newspaper says.
The story is based on results from two clinical trials which found that reducing the total radiation dose by 20% and the number of sessions of radiotherapy by 40% reduced the side effects associated with the treatment without any increase in cancer recurrence. The radiation dose at each session was higher than that given with standard radiation. After five years, there were no differences between women who had received the standard regimen and those on the new regimen in terms of cancer recurrence. However, side effects of treatment, such as breast-tissue hardening, were fewer in the women who had received the new regimen.
The research suggests that a schedule of lower total dose radiotherapy in fewer, higher doses seems to be as safe and effective as the current regimen. It is not saying that the current regimen is any less effective or causes a greater risk of harmful effects. This is one of many carefully controlled and monitored clinical trials that are continually carried out for different cancer treatments to see whether current standards can be improved to produce better outcomes for patients. Further research with longer-term follow up will need to be carried out before any changes are made to current practice.