Breast Cancer Clinical Trial Enhances Patient Care

Radiation Therapy (RT) plays an important role in cancer treatment. It uses high energy waves to destroy cancerous cells and although it is effective, it can also be hard on the body

Side effects of radiation can include fatigue, skin reactions, damage to tissue in the area treated, and the inconvenience of daily treatment visits to a cancer centre for over three to six weeks.

Thanks to support from donors like you, we are changing this. The Alberta Cancer Foundation is currently funding a clinical trial that aims to improve outcomes and quality of life for breast cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment in Alberta. This trial will ease the cancer journey – by reducing the number of visits they need to make to a cancer centre, and allowing them to avoid excess radiation exposure.

Led by Dr. Ivo Olivotto – Head of Radiation Oncology at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, this research is currently underway across the province.

Research is about improving care and that’s what we’re trying to do for Albertans with this study.

DR. Ivo Olivotto

Designed in Alberta, the ACCEL trial (short for Accelerated RT) is researching how a partial breast irradiation (APBI) technique might be a preferable alternative to whole breast radiation for women with early-stage breast cancer who have undergone a lumpectomy with no spread to their lymph nodes. Patient outcomes in the ACCEL trial will be compared to data already collected from a similar trial called RAPID, which was conducted across Canada from 2005-2011.

The study has successfully recruited over 80 women between May 2016 and February 2017. Patients participating are aged 50 and older, and enrollment is ongoing with a plan to eventually treat 274 women as part of the ACCEL research protocol. Patients in the trial receive five radiation treatments targeted to their surgical site, completed over one week, as opposed to the standard 16-30 treatments completed over three to six weeks. This direct approach intends to improve patient convenience, decrease treatment burden and minimize the side effects of radiation.

Early findings indicate that patients participating in the trial have less acute toxicity (skin reactions) and less fatigue compared to those who receive standard whole breast radiation treatment after a lumpectomy. Not only is the shorter treatment more convenient for patients, but it is also achieving significant cost savings for the health system.

Follow up with patients participating in the trial are being conducted six to eight weeks after treatment, and again at years one and two after treatment. Dr. Olivotto’s team is on track to conduct the first major analysis of results in December 2017.

Currently, the ACCEL trial is successfully being conducted at three cancer sites in Alberta, including the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, the Jack Ady Cancer Centre in Lethbridge, and the Central Alberta Cancer Centre in Red Deer. This means that more patients are able to avoid stressful commutes, receive treatment close to home, and focus on what matters most – healing.

This is real-life progress thanks to donors like you and it is something that Katherine Siemens is grateful for.

While vacationing on Vancouver Island in September 2016, she felt a lump in her right breast. By the following week, she heard the fateful words, “you have cancer”.

After undergoing a lumpectomy and at the time of her initial oncology consultation, Katherine was informed that she was eligible to take part in the ACCEL trial.

The fact that the trial would be administering less radiation exposure weighed heavily for Katherine. “It was an easy decision. We know that radiation can cause many side effects, and I felt fortunate to have the option of directing the radiation to a specific area. It had an impact on my quality of life.”

Having now been deemed cancer free, Katherine is planning a return to the coast this spring to spend time with family and friends, and is enjoying painting – a relaxing and therapeutic activity that she took up during her cancer journey.

It’s wonderful that cancer treatments are becoming more refined, and I feel so grateful that this clinical trial looked at treatment from a patient’s perspective. I think that it is extremely important that studies like this continue to be developed, because every cancer patient deserves to be provided with the very best options.

Katherine Siemens

We couldn’t agree more.

Thanks to the generous support of donors like you, clinical trial teams across the province are continuing to provide Albertans facing cancer with the best treatment options and care possible.

Thank you for easing the cancer journey for patients across the province. Together we will make a difference.

Make life better for Albertans facing cancer. Donate today.

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