According to results recently presented at the 47th annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO), further evidence indicates that the addition of radiation therapy to hormone therapy in the treatment of early breast cancer reduces the risk of a local recurrence.

Early breast cancer refers to a small cancer that has not spread outside the breast or beyond one or two axillary (under the arm) lymph nodes. Standard treatment for early breast cancer includes the surgical removal of the cancer and surrounding tissue (lumpectomy), followed by radiation therapy and hormone therapy (in eligible women). Since women with early breast cancer achieve high long-term survival, researchers continue to evaluate the benefits of each treatment modality to ensure that patients are not over-treated.

Researchers from Austria conducted a clinical trial to evaluate the addition of radiation therapy to hormone therapy following surgery in women with early breast cancer. This trial included 869 women who underwent an initial lumpectomy, followed by radiation therapy plus hormone therapy or hormone therapy alone.

The addition of radiation therapy reduced the risk of a local recurrence (cancer recurrence at or near the site of the original cancer):

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  • Only one patient treated with radiation/hormone therapy experienced a cancer relapse, versus 13 patients treated with hormone therapy alone.
  • Overall survival was 97.2% for patients treated with radiation/hormone therapy, versus 96.6% for patients treated with hormone therapy alone.

The researchers concluded that the addition of radiation therapy to hormone therapy reduces the risk of a local cancer recurrence more effectively than hormone therapy alone following a lumpectomy in patients with early breast cancer. These results provide further evidence that radiation should continue to be part of the standard therapeutic regimen of early breast cancer.

Reference: Poetter R, Gnant M, Kwasny W, et al. Lumpectomy plus tamoxifen or arimidex with or without whole breast irradiation in women with favorable early breast cancer. Proceedings of the 47th annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology. 2005; abstract number 3;page S2.

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