Hypofractionated re-irradiation of large-sized recurrent breast cancer

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Purpose: Evaluation of the efficacy and toxicity of a new setup of thermographically controlled water-filtered infra-red-A (wIRA) superficial hyperthermia (HT) combined with hypofractionated re-irradiation (re-RT) to treat large-sized breast cancer recurrences.

Methods: Records of 73 heavily pre-irradiated patients with 103 treatment regions, treated from September 2009 to July 2015 were retrospectively analysed. Sixty-four patients with macroscopic disease were treated with 94 regions including 46 patients with lymphangiosis carcinomatosa. Hypofractionated RT consisted of 4 Gy once per week up to a total dose of 20 Gy delivered within 1–4 min after wIRA-HT. Heating of tumour nodules and diffusely spreading cancer lesions was performed under real-time thermographic temperature monitoring, maintaining the maximum skin temperature in the ROI between 42 °C and 43 °C, achieving intratumoural temperatures up to a depth of 2 cm between 39.5 °C and 42 °C. Seventeen patients received re-re-irradiation (re-re-RT) using the same HT/RT-treatment schedule.

Results: Response rates in patients with macroscopic disease: 61% CR, 33% PR, 5% NC and 1% PD. Local control throughout life time after CR of macroscopic disease: 59%. All nine patients with microscopic disease had CR and local control throughout lifetime. Only grade 1 toxicities were observed.

Conclusions: Application of thermographically controlled wIRA-HT combined with extremely low-dose re-irradiation provides good local control throughout lifetime of heavily pre-treated breast cancer recurrences. The twin wIRA radiator provides a sufficiently homogeneous heat deposition for the treatment of larger areas. The time lag between HT and re-RT is substantially reduced. The possibility of re-re-RT opens new therapeutic options for the future.

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