In a recent edition of the journal Brachytherapy, a team of UVA researchers report the results of an initial test of image-guided, high-dose-rate brachytherapy in the treatment of breast cancer. The experimental approach aims to overcome many of the limitations of other forms of intraoperative radiation therapy [IORT] by using powerful imaging technology to visualize what’s occurring inside the breast during treatment. The use of image-guided brachytherapy allows the UVA researchers to sculpt the radiation to whatever shape is most effective, unlike other forms of IORT, which simply deliver radiation in a spherical shape.
That ability to shape the dose would allow doctors to customize treatment to each person, targeting cancerous cells more effectively while sparing healthy tissue. “Because of the properties of high-dose brachytherapy and all the flexibility we have with shaping the dose, we can delivery a much higher prescription dose — a tumorcidal or cancer-killing dose — to the high-risk target line, the area that’s at risk for cancer,” says Timothy Showalter, MD, of the UVA Cancer Center.