New HDR Technology at SOMC

Southern Ohio Medical Center recently acquired new technology to speed the breast cancer treatment process. This new procedure is called MammoSite HDR (high dose rate) partial breast irradiation, it will reduce radiation therapy from six-seven weeks to five days.

Dr. Vincent Scarpinato, Senior Medical Director for the Department of Surgery was instrumental in bringing this new technique to SOMC.  The procedure begins with removal of the tumor from the patient, followed by the placement of a catheter (small tube) leading to where the cancer was removed. This device, the MammoSite balloon catheter, is used by the radiation oncologist a few days later for partial breast irradiation known as brachytherapy.

“With this procedure, the patient receives treatment from inside the cavity where the tumor was removed rather than with an external beam pointed from the outside,” Dr. Scarpinato explained. “This dramatically reduces the time and number of treatments necessary and most patients have their therapy completed in five days.”

MammoSite partial-breast irradiation is a technique that delivers more focused radiation to a smaller area of breast tissue. The MammoSite device is a double channel balloon catheter consists of a silicon balloon and a 15 cm catheter.

The catheter on the MammoSite device attaches to a special machine called a High Dose Rate (HDR) machine. This machine inserts a tiny radioactive seed into the middle of the balloon, which delivers radiation only to the area around the balloon. After several minutes the seed is withdrawn. After the treatments are complete, the balloon is deflated and the MammoSite device is removed.

“This approach allows for a much higher, very localized dose of exposure that kills the remaining cancer cells at the site. Whereas previously the patient may chose mastectomy, complete removal of the breast, HDR brachytherapy offers an opportunity to have a lumpectomy and radiation therapy that preserves the breast,” said Dr. Li-Fen Lien Chang, Senior Medical Director of Radiation Oncology Services. “This procedure also lessons the time needed to receive radiation therapy. Patients can receive this treatment in five days rather than six to seven and half weeks.”

After the treatment, the oncologist can remove the catheter and the cavity will fill up naturally with body fluid. Not all breast cancer patients are good candidates for MammoSite partial breast irradiation. Approximately 64 percent of breast cancer patients are potential candidates for the HDR approach. Five-year data is now available showing the procedure has comparable low recurrent rate compare to traditional external beam irradiation.

“Currently there are nationwide clinical trials to further define the best candidate for this technology. We exclude very young patients (<45 years old), very large tumors (>3 cm), positive lymph node metastasis, positive resection margin or when the balloon surface is too close to the skin (<7mm). If you are a breast cancer patient and are interested in MammoSite HDR brachytherapy, please contact SOMC Cancer Center for an appointment. We are so proud to bring this technology to the Greater Portsmouth area,” said Chang.