Cancer experts believe a treatment combined with chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cut down the risk of tumor recurring in a patient.

The new approach, known as synchronous chemoradiation, has limited critical side effects and will not damage patients' quality of life, claim the British scientists who conducted the study at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress (EMCC) in Stockholm.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in the U.S. says 425,000 women die of breast cancer every year.

The double treatment, however, can alter the scenario as the results show that synchronous chemoradiation reduces the risk of local cancer recurrence by 35% in women with early breast cancer. After a follow-up of over eight years, only 41 patients in the synchronous chemoradiation group had suffered a recurrence compared with 63 patients in the sequential chemoradiation group, says Dr Indrajit Fernando, a Consultant Clinical Oncologist at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.  

The results have implications worldwide, says Dr. Fernando who is the principal investigator of the study 'SEquencing of Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy in Adjuvant Breast cancer (SECRAB).

Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are integral parts of breast cancer treatment which are given after surgery to ensure no cancer cells remain in the breast and its related area. In the standard method known as Sequential Chemoradiation, chemotherapy is given first followed by radiotherapy.

The present study was done on 2,296 women who already had surgery to remove their breast tumors and all of them received chemoradiation after surgery, either sequential or synchronous.

The result that came showed the five-year local recurrence rates were 2.8% and 5.1% in the synchronous and sequential chemoradiation groups, respectively. This difference of 2.3% between treatment groups was statistically significant, says Dr. Fernando. Even a 2.3% reduction in local recurrence rates will have an impact worldwide when we consider that this is a very common cancer.

However, Clinical practice needs to be reviewed for patients who are being treated with a CMF or an anthracycline/CMF chemotherapy schedule, he says.