Administering an extra dose of radiotherapy to patients with early breast cancer greatly reduces the risk of local recurrence, according to a study conducted by the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) breast cancer and radiotherapy groups. The findings will be presented today in Istanbul at a meeting of the European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.

In order to determine whether such a booster would aid women who had undergone breast conserving surgery, researchers studied 5,569 patients, 95.5 percent of whom had had the tumor completely removed. All patients had radiation to the whole breast, and were then randomly selected to receive either a local booster or no further radiotherapy. Several years later, whereas 182 patients in the control group experienced a recurrence of the cancer, only 109 patients in the booster group suffered a setback-- a risk reduction of nearly 50 percent to date. Women under the age of 40 benefitted the most, lowering their chance of recurrence by 54 percent.

Researchers will continue to monitor the patients in years to come to see whether the booster reduces mortality. In the meantime, principal trial coordinator Harry Bartelink asserts that the findings should change clinical practice immediately. "These impressive results mean that a boost should now be considered the standard treatment for early breast cancer," he says, "particularly in younger women."