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India gets new breast cancer treatment that could increase survival odds

Experts say AccuBoost technique could prevent relapse by nearly 50% but warn that studies are needed to test efficacy. India's first device will be installed at Apollo Delhi.

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New Delhi: A new form of treatment to combat breast cancer has arrived in India, where the disease is the biggest killer of women.

Experts say that the treatment — the AccuBoost technique, a non-invasive breast brachytherapy (a form of radiation) — reduces the chances of relapse among women who have stage I and II breast cancer.

“The Accuboost can be a good treatment for breast cancers in India,” head of Surgical Sciences, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Dr Anurag Shrivastava, told ThePrint.

“After a tumour is removed, its stem or tumour bed is left behind, which causes a relapse. This type of therapy is going to kill that tumour bed and thus the relapse.”

Shrivastava added that the new technique will also help prevent psychological scars that patients are left to deal with when breasts are removed.

With advanced medical sciences, patients are now opting for breast conservation surgeries, called lumpectomies, where the tumours are plucked out surgically and a portion of the breast is preserved, Shrivastava said. This is done in early stage cancers and saves the patients the mental trauma.

“In breast conservation surgeries, only the tumour or lumps and little tissue of the breast is removed. This is where an Accuboost technique becomes a game changer,” Shrivastava added. “Earlier, the target was not achieved thus there were many relapse cases. This can help in pinpointing the target. It’s like giving the boost to the required area.”

‘Could prevent relapse by 50% but needs study’

Experts suggest that a technique like the AccuBoost will still take time to be accepted universally but has a “potential” to achieve quality results in preventing relapse by 50 per cent.

“If you do a good lumpectomy, there is still 15 per cent chance of cancer coming back in next 10 years,” senior consultant, oncology at Apollo Hospitals, Dr Ramesh Sarin, told ThePrint.

“Even in mastectomy, there is a chance of relapse by 20 per cent. We can reduce that chance by 50 per cent by giving this radiation.”

She, however, said that research studies would need to be conducted in India to establish its efficacy.

“Brachytherapy is 37 years in practice and Linear Accelerator (LINAC) is being used for 20 years,” Sarin added. “Studies need to be conducted to check the results thus evaluate the efficacy of a new machine in South Asia like the AccuBoost and compared it with the conventional therapies.”

Also read: IIT-Hyderabad researchers trace Antarctic fungi for cheaper leukaemia treatment

Boon for India

The device to administer the AccuBoost technique could be a boon in India, where the survival rate for breast cancer continues to be low. Only 66.1 per cent of the women diagnosed with the disease between 2010 and 2014 survived, according to a report in The Lancet.

The machine is being procured for India by the Hyderabad-based Sentier. They are expected to cost Rs 4.5 crore each.

“It involves five days of treatment,” Vijay Kaul, senior manager at Frontier told ThePrint over the phone.

“It has been used in the US for the last eight years. In India, we are installing the machine in PGI, Chandigarh, AIIMS Rishikesh and NCI, Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), and Apollo Delhi.”

Apollo Hospital, Delhi, is set to be the first to get the machine installed and will be followed by government institutes such as AIIMS.

AIIMS has also decided to install the device at the National Cancer Institute, Jhajjar, in Haryana.

Also read: Breast cancer is still the biggest killer in India, shows study


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