Breast cancer treatment: curing with less cost

Credit: Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. Each year >500,000 women worldwide die of the disease. Aggressive treatment strategies have doubled breast cancer survival rates since the 1970s; however, it is now recognised that many of these patients are over-treated, resulting in unnecessary long-term side effects and healthcare costs.

Cambridge-led clinical trials (e.g. PERSEPHONE) involving >6,000 patients in >150 UK centres have identified those breast cancer patients who can be treated with reduced-volume radiation and reduced-duration anti-HER2 antibody (trastuzumab) therapy.

This research has directly changed practice in the UK, Canada, USA, Europe (e.g. Netherlands and Denmark) and India, underpinning a global de-escalation in breast cancer therapy that spares qualifying patients from unnecessary side effects, preserves excellent survival rates and reduces treatment costs.

Partial breast radiotherapy is also now being used routinely in some of the largest and most technologically advanced cancer centres worldwide including: Australasia, Canada and USA.

“[PERSEPHONE] is a hugely important clinical trial that shows that more is not always better. Women will now have the potential to avoid unnecessary side effects of longer treatment without losing any benefit. In turn, this should help save vital funds for the NHS and prompt more studies in other situations where the optimum duration of treatment is not known.”

– Professor Hywel Williams, former Director of the NIHR HTA Programme, which recommended funding the PERSEPHONE study