Made at UCL


Single-dose technique transforms breast cancer treatment

Research at UCL has transformed the treatment of breast cancer, the most common cancer in women, using innovative one-off targeted intraoperative radiation therapy (TARGIT IORT). This new treatment avoids the burden of a three- to six-week course of postoperative radiotherapy.

Single-dose technique transforms breast cancer treatment

Women treated with TARGIT IORT achieve similar cancer-free survival but report better quality of life, lower toxicity, and better cosmetic outcomes than those who received the standard, longer course of radiotherapy.

TARGIT IORT can save a typical patient 750 miles of travel and an estimated £9,000,000 per year for the NHS.

TARGIT IORT was developed and tested over the last two decades by an international team led by Professor Jayant S Vaidya, Professor Michael Baum and Professor Jeffrey Tobias at UCL. They proposed that radiotherapy be limited to the tumour bed and administered at the time of surgical removal of the cancer (lumpectomy). This became the TARGeted Intraoperative radioTherapy (TARGIT) technique.

The TARGIT IORT precisely targets radiation in a single dose during the lumpectomy operation. It is delivered over 15– 35 minutes, using a ball-shaped device placed in the space where the tumour was. This way, the areas nearest to the tumour site – the target tissues – receive the therapeutic dose of radiation and healthy tissues (such as skin, heart, and lungs) are protected from potentially harmful radiation. 

Over 350 breast cancer centres worldwide have now used TARGIT IORT to treat over 30,000 patients. It is now included in several national and professional guidelines. In 2018, NICE published guidance recommending the use of TARGIT in well-equipped centres in the UK. 

TARGIT IORT radiation has many advantages for patients, but it is positively disruptive because these patients need never step inside the expensively equipped radiotherapy departments – traditionally, a third of their workload is breast cancer. 

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  • Credit: Pablo Heimplatz, Source: Unsplash