After an average follow-up of 10.9 years, EORTC researchers found that giving radiation therapy to the lymph nodes located behind the breast and above the collar bone to patients with early breast cancer improves overall survival without increasing side effects.
This new finding ends the uncertainty about whether the beneficial effect of radiation therapy in such patients was simply the result of irradiation of the breast area, or whether it treated cancer cells in the local lymph nodes as well. These results of the EORTC Radiation Oncology and Breast Cancer Groups phase III trial 22922/10925 were presented as a Best Abstract during the Presidential Session I on Saturday, 28 September 2013 at the European Cancer Congress.
Dr Philip Poortmans, a radiation oncologist from the Institute Verbeeten, Tilburg, The Netherlands, and a member of the EORTC Radiation Oncology and Breast Cancer Groups, said that results from the international trial, which involved 4004 patients from 43 centres, were convincing. “Our results make it clear that irradiating these lymph nodes give a better patient outcome than giving radiation therapy to the breast/thoracic wall alone. Not only have we shown that such treatment has a beneficial effect on locoregional disease control, but it also improves distant metastasis-free survival and overall survival.”