Breast Cancer Patients Could Benefit from Fewer Radiotherapy Treatments

British women diagnosed with early breast cancer are often treated with radiotherapy, usually in 15 treatments delivered over a three-week period. This was adopted in 2008 in response to an earlier study led by the ICR that found it was as safe and effective as the five-week, 25 treatment international standard*.

However, there is some evidence to suggest that even fewer treatments could be as effective – or possibly more effective. A new trial of 4,000 men and women will compare the UK standard three-week treatment regimen with two separate one-week schedules of slightly different doses.

“If a one-week treatment schedule is shown to be as or more effective than the UK standard three-week schedule, there would be a number of benefits for patients and the health service,” says trial Chief Investigator Professor John Yarnold from the ICR and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. “For example, it would mean less travelling and fewer hospital visits. It would also free up radiotherapy staff and equipment, which means newly-diagnosed patients would be able to start treatment with less delay. Faster access and shorter schedules could even make the treatment more effective. ”

The Phase III, randomised, controlled trial, called FAST-FORWARD, involves at least 25 radiotherapy centres and will be coordinated by the ICR’s Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit. It has been funded £2.9 million from the NIHR HTA programme.

Men and women in the test groups will receive five radiotherapy treatments in one week. Each individual daily dose will be higher than the UK standard but the overall dose will be lower. The trial will begin in September 2011 and be conducted over 15 years as adverse effects from radiotherapy can continue for many years after treatment. The trial is primarily examining rates of relapse, but will also assess radiotherapy adverse effects, quality of life and health economics.




Media Contact: ICR Science Communications Manager Jane Bunce on 0207 153 5106 or after hours 077217 47900


Notes to Editors:

* International standard: Total dose 50Gy in 25 fractions over five weeks

New UK standard/START trial test group: Total dose 40Gy in 15 fractions over three weeks:

FAST-FORWARD test groups: Total dose 26Gy or 27 Gy in five fractions over one week:


The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)

  • The ICR is Europe’s leading cancer research centre
  • The ICR has been ranked the UK’s top academic research centre, based on the results of the Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise
  • The ICR works closely with partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patients immediately benefit from new research. Together the two organisations form the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe
  • The ICR has charitable status and relies on voluntary income, spending 90 pence in every pound of total income directly on research
  • As a college of the University of London, the ICR also provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction
  • Over its 100-year history, the ICR’s achievements include identifying the potential link between smoking and lung cancer which was subsequently confirmed, discovering that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer and isolating more cancer-related genes than any other organisation in the world
  • The Institute of Cancer Research’s Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit (ICR- CTSU) is an academic clinical trials unit accredited by the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) to conduct clinical trials into cancer treatments. The department is funded by an infrastructure grant from Cancer Research UK.

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