Biological dosimetry for breast cancer radiotherapy: a comparison of external beam and intraoperative radiotherapy

David K Woolf, Norman R Williams, Raheleh Bakshi, Seyed Yazdan Madani, David J Eaton, Sara Fawcitt, Katharine Pigott, Susan Short, Mohammed Keshtgar
SpringerPlus 2014, 3: 329

PURPOSE: External beam radiotherapy (EBRT) is the gold standard adjuvant treatment after breast conserving surgery although a recent phase 3 trial has shown the non-inferiority of intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT). Radiation exposure of the heart and cardiac vessels causes an increase in morbidity and mortality following EBRT for breast cancer. We have used γ-H2AX foci formation in peripheral blood lymphocytes as a surrogate marker of dose delivered to the heart and great vessels and have assessed the feasibility of using this technique for biological dosimetry.

METHODS: 34 patients were recruited, having either EBRT or IORT as part of a randomised controlled trial (TARGIT). Blood samples were taken prior to and after first fraction of radiotherapy, and the γ-H2AX biomarker then quantified.

RESULTS: Data were available for 31 patients. Following TARGIT-IORT there was an increase of 0.203 foci per cell (range -1.436 to 1.275) compared with 0.935 foci per cell (range -0.679 to 2.216) in the EBRT group; this difference was highly significant (p = 0.009). As TARGIT-IORT treatment is completed with a single fraction, whilst EBRT requires at least 15 fractions, the actual difference is estimated to be many times more.

CONCLUSIONS: These data show a significantly greater change in γ-H2AX foci number per cell following one fraction of EBRT compared to TARGIT-IORT. This is the first study to demonstrate this effect using a biomarker and demonstrates a proof of concept methodology for similar applications.

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