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Intraoperative radiotherapy comes to UCI Health breast cancer patients

Women have more options with addition of new treatment

July 22, 2014

Breast cancer patients will have more treatment options available at UC Irvine Medical Center with the addition of the Zeiss Intrabeam® intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) system. The treatment may save some women from daily rounds of radiation therapy after surgery and the side effects that accompany it.

“Certain women who have early stage breast cancer could benefit from receiving a single dose of radiation right in the operating room, during the lumpectomy,” said UCI Health breast specialist Dr. Alice Police.

Traditional breast cancer treatment calls for surgery followed by radiation therapy, said Police, a surgical oncologist and medical director of UCI Health Pacific Breast Care Center. That radiation was delivered as an external beam directed at the whole breast or the area the cancer was removed. Drawbacks include receiving radiation for five days a week for up to six weeks, which may be a difficult regimen for some. Traditional radiotherapy also may expose healthy tissue, such as the heart and lungs, to more radiation.

Police said IORT complements the MarginProbe system that UCI Health surgeons began using last year to improve tumor recovery in lumpectomies. MarginProbe permits a surgeon to check during the operation whether a tumor is completely excised. 

In the TARGIT-A randomized clinical trial, half of the 3,400 women who participated received IORT and half received whole-breast external beam radiation. The study found that intraoperative radiation therapy has about the same survival as traditional external beam treatment, while some women had a slightly higher chance of tumor recurrence. An update to the 2010 study was published in November in The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals.

Both Police and Dr. Karen Lane, who participated in the TARGIT-A trial, can use Intrabeam to treat women whose diagnosis might benefit from intraoperative radiotherapy.

The key is matching a woman with the therapy that best suits her condition, said Dr. Leonard Sender, director of clinical oncology services at the UCI Health cancer center.

“Women with varying breast density or different sized tumors, for example, require different approaches,” he said. “We have a great responsibility to choose the right treatment.”

Intraoperative radiation therapy is not for everyone, Sender said. However, having the system available means UCI Health breast cancer specialists can offer each woman a personalized treatment program that includes access to world-class surgeons, oncologists and radiation specialists.

UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 412-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 14 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the University of California, Irvine: Located in coastal Orange County, near a thriving employment hub in one of the nation’s safest cities, UC Irvine was founded in 1965. One of only 62 members of the Association of American Universities, it’s ranked first among U.S. universities under 50 years old by the London-based Times Higher Education. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Under the leadership of Interim Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 28,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.3 billion annually to the local economy.