The NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center is the first and only hospital in New York City that offers women with early stage breast cancer innovative INTRABEAM radiotherapy, which is administered in a single dose during surgery.

Women with early stage breast cancer often undergo a lumpectomy to remove a cancerous tumor. After surgery, the patients usually receive a six to seven-week long regimen of daily radiation therapy doses to the entire breast.

Dr. Mary Katherine Hayes, clinical director of Radiation Oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and associate professor of Clinical Radiology and Radiation Oncology at Weill Cornell Medical College comments:

"INTRABEAM Radiotherapy may be an effective alternative to a six to seven week regimen following surgery for select patients because it allows us to precisely target any remaining cancer cells right inside the tumor bed, where the tumor is most likely to recur."

Whilst the patient is still on the operating table immediately after surgery, the surgeons place INTRABEAM applicator's small, cylindrical tip inside the tumor cavity, where it delivers a superficial dose of radiation for 20-30 minutes with limited exposure to healthy surrounding tissue and organs. The surgical incision is subsequently closed after the applicator has been removed.

Dr. Alexander J. Swistel, attending breast surgeon at the Iris Cantor Women's Health Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and associate professor of clinical surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College explains:

"Our ability to use this radiation technique in such a timely manner may add to its effectiveness since the area in need of treatment can be directly visualized at the moment the tumor is removed."

The treatment offers an alternative to conventional full-breast radiation therapy in line with the hospital's longstanding practice of tailoring partial breast cancer treatments to a growing number of patients with small tumors at an early stage. It also eliminates the additional 6-7 weeks of radiation therapy, which is especially beneficial for patients who do not live close to a hospital or an established radiation therapy facility. 

According to a 10-year randomized phase 3 clinical trial of intraoperative therapy for breast cancer, a single radiotherapy dose given at the time of surgery provided the same results as standard full breast radiation over several weeks for selected patients. The TARGIT-A Trial, the largest randomized clinical trial conducted in this field that involved over 2,000 women in multiple countries, was featured in the July 2010 edition of The Lancet.  

Although INTRABEAM is limited to a select group of patients with a very small tumor, should the surgically removed tissue samples prove more aggressive than preliminary tests have shown, the patient will still be able receive the standard full-breast radiation, but they would not need the final five-day boost therapy phase that targets the tumor bed with external radiation. 

Dr. K.S. Clifford Chao, Radiation-Oncologist-in-Chief of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and professor of Weill Cornell Medical Center, declares: "We are very excited to provide this cutting edge treatment to patients with early staged breast cancer. This is a part of our effort toward personalized cancer care."

Written by Petra Rattue