According to British doctors, a single half-hour "shot" treatment for breast cancer can now do away with a six-week course of tumor-destroying therapy.
The radiotherapy treatment, which is for use in patients with early breast cancer after they have undergone surgery on the tumor, is showing positive results in early trials in patients.
The novel therapy is designed to kill remaining cancerous cells with a concentrated beam of radiation.
Currently, women with breast cancer undergo a five to six-week course of radiotherapy treatment after surgery, involving about 20 hospital visits.
The surgery is designed to conserve as much of the breast as possible, rather than a mastectomy where the whole breast is removed.
But the radiotherapy course can cause more general damage to the tissue and greater distortion to the breast.
The medics believe that, after the publication of trial data later this year, a single dose of intra-operative radiation therapy (IORT) could become more widely available and offer women a less grueling and more cosmetically satisfactory outcome.
The procedure involves lowering a spherical applicator, ranging between a marble and a squash ball in size, into the tumor through the incision created during surgery while the patient is still under anesthetic.
This applicator then gives out a uniform dose of low energy X-rays directly to the surrounding 2cm-deep area of the tumor bed.
The ten-year targeted intra-operative therapy trial aims to show that IORT is as safe and effective as a conventional course of radiotherapy.
Michael Baum, a British cancer specialist involved with the trial, said that the excitement surrounded the possibility that a one-shot treatment might be at least as effective and safe as conventional treatment.
Patients would then be able to move on to drug-based therapies, chemotherapy or hormonal therapy, as required.aum said that the portable machine, called the Intrabeam and manufactured by the Karl Zeiss Corporation in Germany, emits X-rays of a different quality to electron beam radiation, giving a different biological effect that "has the equivalent effect".
"[The treatment] has a major complication of distorting the breast, and the breasts can end up different sizes. If this is shown to work [in the full trial results], many women will be spared six weeks of treatment going back and forth to the radiotherapy center. Women would vote with their feet for this treatment," Times Online quoted Baum as saying.
The study results will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology conference.