Press Release From The Cancer Institute of New Jersey
December 1, 2006
Contact: Candace Botnick
Combination Therapy Improves Treatment for Breast Cancer Patients
Study Conducted at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey
and Yale New Haven Hospital
NEW BRUNSWICK — Giving radiation therapy and chemotherapy at the same time after a lumpectomy helps keep breast cancer from returning locally, according to a study released in the December 1, 2006 issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, the official journal of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.
Breast cancer widely affects women in the United States and New Jersey, with more than 213,000 women nationwide and 8,110 in New Jersey estimated to be diagnosed in 2006. For early-stage breast cancer, the standard treatment is a lumpectomy (surgical removal of the tumor) followed by radiation therapy to the entire breast. Doctors usually recommend chemotherapy in addition for women with invasive disease. When to give the chemotherapy – whether after surgery, but before radiation or after surgery and radiation – has been widely debated among researchers.
Scientists at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, along with colleagues from Yale New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Conn. wanted to try to answer the question as to the proper sequencing of chemotherapy. Doctors recorded data from more than 2,000 patients over the course of nearly 25 years. Of those women, 535 patients were treated with the different sequencing of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Patients were then grouped by how they received the treatment, 276 women received chemotherapy before radiation therapy, 106 women received radiation therapy before chemotherapy, 109 women received concurrent chemotherapy and radiation and 44 women received the “sandwich” technique of alternating chemotherapy with radiation therapy and then repeating chemotherapy.
The outcome for the women in the study was successful across the groups, with 10-year overall survival at 78 percent. Doctors found that there was no significant difference in the way these combinations affected the general patient outcome, but there was a difference in where tumors could relapse. Of the 109 patients who received chemotherapy and radiation therapy at the same time, only 8 percent relapsed locally (in the conservatively treated breast) over 10 years. Of the women who received radiation therapy before chemotherapy, 13 percent had a local relapse while 22 percent of the women who had chemotherapy before radiation had a local relapse.
“It is important for doctors to test and retest combinations of treatments and how we deliver them to our patients. In this retrospective analysis, by concurrently administering chemotherapy and radiation therapy, there appears to be a benefit to selected patients in terms of local control of the breast cancer. The challenge over the next few years is to identify those patients who would best benefit from this strategy. This can best be accomplished by prospective clinical trials,” said Bruce G. Haffty, M.D., the lead author of the study and the Chair of Radiation Oncology at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and UMDNJ-Robert Johnson Wood Medical School. Dr. Haffty is also an Associate Director at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
The Cancer Institute of New Jersey is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, and is dedicated to improving the prevention, detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer. CINJ’s physician-scientists engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice quite literally bringing research to life. The Cancer Institute of New Jersey is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. To support CINJ, please call 732/235-8614.
The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides a mechanism to rapidly disseminate important discoveries into the community. Partner Hospitals: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Atlantic Health System (Morristown Memorial Hospital, Mountainside Hospital, Overlook Hospital). Affiliate Hospitals: Bayshore Community Hospital, CentraState Healthcare System, Cooper University Hospital (CINJ at Cooper),* Jersey Shore University Medical Center, JFK Medical Center, Monmouth Medical Center, Raritan Bay Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton (CINJ-Hamilton), Saint Peter’s University Hospital, Somerset Medical Center, Southern Ocean County Hospital, The University Hospital/UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School,* and University Medical Center at Princeton.