Clinical trial at UC Health could shorten radiation therapy times for some breast cancer patients

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — UC Health is enrolling patients in a new clinical trial that’s the only one of its kind in the U.S.

Oncologists say it could shorten radiation therapy times for certain breast cancer patients.

It’s called Hypofractionated Radiation Therapy which means fewer but larger treatments. This is already the standard of care for node-negative breast cancer patients, but is not available for node-positive patients until now.

Avid runner and fitness enthusiast Sara DeBord was diagnosed with breast cancer back in February. She underwent chemotherapy from March through June.

On her 42nd birthday and just 10 days after her second chemo treatment, DeBord ran the Boston Marathon. A mastectomy soon followed in July, and then it was time for her to start radiation.

Wanting to maintain her every day routine, she was looking for a fast track to treatment. So when her oncologist told her about this clinical trial, she was all in.

“A lot of women aren’t very close to a center,” said DeBord. “I read an anecdote about a woman who lived hours away from a center so she was living out of her car for her whole radiation treatment.”

Normally node-positive breast cancer patients undergo 25 to 33 radiation treatments over 5 to 6weeks. With this new therapy patients receive only 15 to 19 treatments, cutting off as many as three weeks of radiation.

Dr. Jane Ridings, a radiation oncologist at Memorial Hospital North said, “Even though the treatment itself is only like a minute a day, patients are here five days a week for a series of weeks for about 20 to 30 minutes each day and then there’s commuting time. So that’s time away from work, school, life, whatever.”

DeBord made big plans to go to an out-of-state running retreat this month, which would’ve conflicted with treatments. Because of this trial she finished up radiation at the end of September about two weeks early.

“Now I get to go to the retreat. I leave on Thursday,” said DeBord.

Ridings said, “We are hoping that we will find the patients who’ve been treated in this way do just as well as the patients who were treated over the conventional five to six and a half weeks.”

They’re planning to sign up 112 patients and you have to be a patient of UC Health to enroll. For more information about the trial call 719-365-6800.

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