‘Revolutionary’ breast cancer therapy wins NHS backing

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Tens of thousands of breast cancer sufferers could benefit from a “revolutionary” new type of radiotherapy delivered during surgery.

Intrabeam radiotherapy has been given a provisional go-ahead for NHS use for people with early-stage breast cancer.

In new draft guidance, the National Institute for Health and Care excellence (Nice) said a single dose of radiotherapy could be “more convenient” for patients.

Some patients have to make 15 trips to hospital for radiotherapy but the latest treatment can be given during surgery, reducing the “disruption, stress and inconvenience” for sufferers, charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer said.

The charity said that the “revolutionary” treatment would not only cause fewer problems for patients but it would also save the NHS time and money.

“This is great news for early breast cancer patients due for breast conserving operations,” Sally Greenbrook, senior policy officer at the charity, said.

“Intrabeam is unique in that it is given during surgery, avoiding the need for weeks of follow-up appointments and for many women, this is all the treatment they need.

“However, this technique can greatly reduce the disruption, stress and inconvenience of what for some people can be over 15 additional trips to and from hospital as well as saving the NHS money and time.”

Prof Carole Longson, director of health technology evaluation at Nice, said: “Regular radiotherapy typically requires numerous doses over a three week period - although some people may receive it for longer - and is performed weeks or months after surgery or chemotherapy.

“Whilst current evidence was not extensive, this type of radiotherapy was more convenient for patients and can improve a person’s quality of life.

“Because it is still relatively new it is only right to recommend its use in a carefully controlled way. This will ensure patients are fully aware of the risks and benefits before choosing which treatment to have and allow doctors to gather more information about the treatment.”

Every year, around 41,500 women and 300 men in England are diagnosed with breast cancer. Nice said that around 86 per cent, or 35,970 people each year, could potentially benefit from the treatment. Early-stage breast cancer is classed as when the tumour is confined to the breast area and has not spread.

*Total darkness at night time is key to the success of breast cancer therapy, US scientists claim today. Being exposed to light at night makes breast cancer resistant to the widely-used drug tamoxifen. They said it shuts off night-time production of the hormone melatonin which was “vital” to the success of the drug.