Rethinking Breast Cancer Treatment: The Argument For Reevaluating Regional Nodal Radiation

Dec 14, 2023 at 10:28 am by Matt

Rethinking breast cancer and the argument for reevaluating regional nodal radiation. Within the domain of breast oncology, the dilemma of managing positive axillary lymph nodes turning negative after neoadjuvant chemotherapy has ignited significant discourse. The pivotal query remains: Is regional nodal radiation imperative, or can patients safely forgo it?

Revolutionizing Current Perspectives On Regional Nodal Radiation

Dr. Eleftherios Mamounas, a breast cancer surgeon and the Medical Director of the Comprehensive Breast Program at the Orlando Health Cancer Institute in Florida, discloses an even split in opinions among oncologists on this matter. However, a groundbreaking multicenter trial, presented at the 2023 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium under Mamounas's guidance, stands poised to revolutionize current perspectives.

This trial, encompassing 1556 women randomly assigned to receive regional nodal radiation or none post-surgery—comprising lumpectomy in over half and mastectomy in the rest—underwent diverse disease stages. With a median age of 52, participants included a significant representation of triple-negative and HER2-positive cases.

Challenging The Traditional Approach

The results challenge traditional approaches. In the group subjected to regional nodal radiation, outcomes paralleled the no-irradiation group—92.7% and 91.8%, respectively, were free from invasive recurrences five years post-surgery. Similarity extended to disease-free survival and overall survival at the five-year mark.

The absence of study-related deaths or unexpected toxicities is noteworthy. Furthermore, patients without regional nodal irradiation experienced a lower incidence of grade 3 toxicity compared to those with irradiation.

Commending The Trial’s Significance

Commending the trial's significance, Dr. Kate Lathrop, a breast medical oncologist at UT Health San Antonio, underscores its role in providing long-awaited data for informed decision-making. The findings suggest the omission of regional nodal irradiation for eligible women, mitigating the risk of unnecessary toxicity, including lymphedema and complications with breast reconstruction.

As the team extends monitoring beyond the five-year mark for potential recurrences, Mamounas stresses the unlikelihood of significant changes in long-term distant disease-free survival. Derived from the study's implications, he advocates for excluding regional nodal irradiation in accordance with established criteria.

Encouraging Patients To Discuss Skipping Regional Nodal Radiation

Encouraging patients to discuss skipping regional nodal irradiation with their doctors, Mamounas anticipates a shift in patient perspectives. The data indicates that, in many instances, radiotherapy can be reasonably avoided, particularly for lower-stage women with one initially positive node.

Supported by the National Cancer Institute, this transformative study challenges entrenched practices, offering a nuanced approach to breast cancer treatment that prioritizes patient well-being.

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