Accelerated partial breast irradiation: the need for well-defined patient selection criteria, improved volume definitions, close follow-up and discussion of salvage treatment

Elizabeth C Moser, Conny Vrieling
Breast: Official Journal of the European Society of Mastology 2012, 21 (6): 707-15
Breast-conserving therapy, including whole breast irradiation, has become a well-established alternative to mastectomy in early-stage breast cancer patients, with similar survival rates and better cosmetic outcome. However, many women are still treated with mastectomy, due to logistical issues related to the long course of radiotherapy (RT). To reduce mastectomy rates and/or omission of RT after breast-conserving surgery, shorter, hypofractionated RT treatments have been introduced. More recently, the necessity of routinely treating the entire breast in all patients has been questioned, leading to the development of partial breast radiotherapy. With accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI) these two approaches have been combined: the tumor bed with a 1-2 cm margin is irradiated either intra-operatively (single fraction) or postoperatively over 5-15 days. Different techniques have been developed, including interstitial brachytherapy, intra-cavity brachytherapy, intra-operative radiotherapy and external beam radiotherapy. These techniques are being evaluated in several ongoing phase III studies. Since its introduction, APBI has been the subject of continuous debate. ASTRO and GEC-ESTRO have published guidelines for patient selection for APBI, and strongly recommend that APBI be carried out within ongoing clinical trials. Recently, the patient selection criteria for APBI have also been up for debate, following the publication of results from different groups that do/do not confirm a difference in recurrence risk among the ASTRO defined risk groups. This paper reviews the different APBI techniques, current recommendations for patient selection, available clinical data and ongoing clinical trials. A case report is included to illustrate the need for careful follow-up of patients treated with APBI.

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