UF to offer Intrabeam therapy to shorten breast cancer radiation treatments

This fall, the University of Florida Shands Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Program will become the first health-care entity in Florida to offer Intrabeam treatments for breast cancer.

“It’s a technology that’s been recently validated as an approach for drastically shortening the period of treatment for early stage breast cancer,” said Stephen Grobmyer, M.D., an associate professor of surgery in UF’s College of Medicine who specializes in researching new treatments for breast cancer patients.

Traditional methods for delivering radiation to breast cancer patients target the entire breast and require daily treatments at a radiation center for as long as six weeks. In some cases, Intrabeam therapy can shorten the duration of a woman’s radiation treatment to a single day, Grobmyer said.

For other patients, the device is used to administer an initial “boost” of internal radiation before external radiation therapy begins, allowing for a shorter treatment time.

Administering the treatment inside the breast also means less healthy tissue is exposed to radiation and ensures therapy is delivered directly to the former tumor site.

UF physicians expect the Intrabeam machine to arrive in October. Surgeons insert the device directly into the breast during a lumpectomy, or resection operation, to deliver a single dose of radiation therapy to the site where the tumor once was. The device is not meant to treat women undergoing mastectomies.

“In a period of about 25 minutes, you get the radiation to the breast and then it’s done,” said Grobmyer, who is also affiliated with the UF Shands Cancer Center.

The convenience of the Intrabeam procedure is a marked improvement for patients.

“We feel Intrabeam will make lumpectomy a more viable option for women,” Grobmyer said. “Previously, some women could not travel daily to a radiation center or lived too far away and they would choose mastectomy simply because they could not get radiation. The Intrabeam will solve this problem for these patients.”

Trials to measure the treatment’s effectiveness began in 2000. An article published in a July issue of The Lancet showed no significant difference between rates of local recurrence of breast cancer for patients receiving radiation therapy via the Intrabeam machine — 14 percent of these patients also received traditional external radiation therapy — and traditional methods.

A $346,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, helped pay for the machine.

In July, Grobmyer visited Jerusalem Hospital in Hamburg, Germany, one of the busiest breast cancer programs in that country, with Judith Lightsey, M.D., and Niranjan Bhandare, M.S., to learn how to use the Intrabeam and to train a team to administer the treatment during surgery. Lightsey is a UF assistant professor of radiation oncology and Bhandare is a clinical medical physicist in the UF department of radiation oncology.

UF also is working with other institutions offering Intrabeam therapy “to work on formulating ongoing clinical investigations and trials for expanding the use of the technology,” Grobmyer said.