London: An Indian oncologist is among three experts in the UK who have achieved a breakthrough in the treatment of breast cancer after a 10-year trial that demonstrates that a single dose of radiation during surgery is just as effective as a prolonged course of radiotherapy.
Goa-origin Jayant Vaidya, who works at the University College, Royal Free and Whittington Hospitals, designed and led the trial called interoperative radiotherapy (TARGIT) involving 2,000 women along with oncologists Jeffrey Tobias and Mike Baum.
The new approach means selected patients receive just one dose of radiation during surgery to remove breast cancer.
A probe is inserted into the breast so that it can target the exact site of the cancer.
Vaidya said: "This has been my dream for the last 15 years. The new treatment could mean that many more women could conserve their breasts. TARGIT saves time, money and breasts."
He added: "Scientifically, the results change the way of thinking about breast cancer and its treatment.
It suggests that in selected patients the whole breast does not need to be treated and that the radiation dose and that the radiation dose can be much lower."
Vaidya, who hails from a prominent doctors family from Goa, studied at the Peoples’s High School, Panaji, Dhempe College, and the Goa Medical College.
Tobias, who enrolled the first ever patient on the trial at the former Middlesex Hospital in London along with Vaidya, said: "I think the reason why it works so well is because of the precision of the treatment.It eradicates the very highest risk area -- the part of the breast from which the tumour was removed."
He added: "It is given in a single dose via an intraoperative probe and the conventional surgery is extended by just 30-40 minutes while the patient is asleep under anaesthetic."
It also means there is an otherwise unachievable degree of immediacy because the cancer is taken out and radiation goes in as soon as the surgery is complete – rather than weeks after.
The surgery and radiotherapy which would otherwise take around five weeks is done and dusted.
Kate Law, director of clinical research at Cancer Research UK, said: "Radiotherapy is already a very effective treatment, so improving that even further is an exciting prospect.
Further follow-up of these women will be needed to confirm whether this strategy not only makes the most of the therapy`s power but also minimises any long-term side effects."
Results published in the Lancet show that in selected patients, the new method appears to be just as effective as conventional post-operative breast cancer treatment which can be a lengthy process.
A prolonged course of radiotherapy can mean 20 or 30 visits to hospital over five to six weeks.
However, targeted intraoperative radiotherapy benefits patients by reducing their exposure to radiation toxicity and reducing the number of journeys they have to make to hospital.
According to the authors, for the National Health Service it could mean reduced waiting lists for breast cancer treatment and estimated savings of as much as 15 million pounds a year, despite the initial outlay for new equipment.