South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday June 18, 2019
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January 2019 - Volume 15 - Issue 7

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How Proton Therapy Can Improve Breast Cancer Treatment

Radiation therapy is an effective treatment for breast cancer, but like other therapies it often comes with side effects. Some of the most serious, including damage to the heart, may not appear until years later.

Now, proton therapy is receiving growing interest for the treatment of breast cancer, especially left-sided breast cancer which is closer to the heart.
 
“When we do radiation to the breast, especially when we’re treating all of the regional lymph nodes, the heart can receive amounts of radiation that can potentially lead to heart scarring or injury,” said Marcio Fagundes, M.D., medical director of radiation oncology at Miami Cancer Institute.
 
One method of sparing the heart of such damage during radiation treatment involves proton therapy, he adds.
 
“There are two ways of doing radiation,” says Dr. Fagundes. “One is conventional X-ray therapy; another is proton therapy. Proton therapy is different in the sense that we send the radiation into the breast but we stop the radiation before it reaches the heart.”
 
Miami Cancer Institute’s Proton Therapy Center is one of 30 centers currently involved in a national study called RADCOMP, a randomized clinical trial comparing proton and conventional radiation therapies that will include almost 2,000 patients in total. The study is investigating whether using proton therapy, which delivers less radiation to the heart during breast cancer treatment, can reduce the risk of complications, including heart injury. Certain patients with right-sided breast cancer are also eligible for the voluntary study, which will accrue patients over a five-year period.
 
One of Dr. Fagundes’ patients, 62-year-old Madlyn McKendry, takes the train daily from Lake Worth to receive treatment at Miami Cancer Institute, the only location in South Florida offering the trial.
 
“I’m a big researcher and this looked amazing to me, especially for left-sided breast cancer where your heart and lungs are nearby. It was a randomized study, so I took my chances, but I feel very happy to be randomized to the proton treatment,” she said.
 
According to Dr. Fagundes, final results will be available 10 years after the start of the trial.
 
“If it proves that we are decreasing cardiac complications from radiation to the point that we believe it will, then proton therapy will become the preferred treatment for these patients,” he says. “I’m very excited about being part of our institution and participating in these studies because we are determining new practices and evolving what the medical field will be doing in years to come.”
 
The Baptist Health South Florida News Team spoke with Dr. Fagundes and Ms. McKendry and went behind the scenes inside the proton therapy treatment room. Watch the video now.

For more information, visit miamicancerinstitute.com

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