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Dwight E. Heron

New Radiation Technique Can Significantly Reduce Length Of Time Breast Cancer Patients Spend In Treatment

PITTSBURGH, June 4, 2002 — A new tumor site-specific radiation therapy, MammoSite® Radiation Therapy System, is now an option for breast cancer patients with early and small breast tumors treated at Magee-Womens Hospital of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The new treatment, recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, can significantly reduce the amount of time patients spend receiving radiation therapy because it allows radiation oncologists to specifically treat the tumor site instead of the entire breast.

"MammoSite internally delivers radiation therapy directly to the tumor site where cancer cells are most likely to reside," said Dwight Heron, M.D., assistant professor, department of radiation oncology, Magee-Womens Hospital. "It allows for the safe delivery of radiation to the breast in a very short period of time and as a result, reduces the time, inconvenience and side effects that are associated with traditional external radiation therapy."

Dr. Heron explained that side effects associated with standard radiation therapy for breast cancer may include skin changes, breast swelling, lung inflammation and possible heart irritation.

MammoSite is a type of breast brachytherapy (bray-kee-therapy) that uses a single catheter inserted into the breast following lumpectomy, or surgical removal of the tumor. Brachytherapy is a radiation delivery technique that internally targets radiation to a tumor site. It has been used to treat other types of cancer including gynecological tumors as well as prostate and head and neck cancers.

With MammoSite, once the catheter is inserted, a tiny balloon is inflated and filled with radioactive seeds that deliver prescribed levels of radiation to targeted tissue surrounding the tumor site. Because it is targeted directly to the tumor site, MammoSite limits the dose of radiation to nearby normal tissues.

"MammoSite is an option for some women with breast tumors that are small enough to be removed via lumpectomy," said Kristina Gerszten, M.D., professor and director, department of radiation oncology, Magee-Womens Hospital. "While not appropriate for all breast cancer patients, it is an easier and less invasive way to deliver radiation directly to the breast tissue."

Dr. Gerszten added that before MammoSite became a treatment option, some women may have opted for mastectomy (complete removal of the breast) to avoid standard postoperative radiation treatment that requires at least a six-week course of daily therapy.

Proper use of MammoSite requires a substantial amount of expertise and training for staff and surgeons alike. A special team of experts has been assembled at Magee-Womens Hospital that includes Jeffrey Falk, M.D., William Poller, M.D., Gwen King, Ph.D., Raj Selvaraj, Ph.D., and Andrew Wu, Ph.D.

MammoSite is manufactured by Proxima Therapeutics Inc. based in Alpharetta, GA. Proxima Therapeutics Inc. is a privately held medical device company established in 1995 to develop site-specific cancer treatment systems for breast and brain tumors.

Magee-Women's Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is one of only five nonprofit hospitals in the United States dedicated to the care of women and infants. Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Magee serves as a teaching facility for obstetrics, gynecology, gynecological oncology and neonatology for students enrolled in the Schools of Medicine and Nursing, and for allied health professions. Members of Magee's medical staff hold academic appointments at the University of Pittsburgh and are actively involved in education and research, as well as patient care.

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