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NCRI 2012: Heart sparing radiotherapy and in vivo radio-imaging

by ecancer reporter Clare Sansom


NCRI Cancer Conference: Tuesday 6 November


The 2012 NCRI conference saw the beginning of a partnership between the Institute and the Royal College of Radiologists.

The focus of this collaboration was on the Tuesday, with two invited and one proffered paper sessions.

The topics of the invited sessions, which both had a clinical focus, were lung cancer and acute oncology; the proffered paper session focused on radiotherapy and radiobiology.

Prizes were offered for the best proffered paper and the best poster in this area, and the winners were announced at the end of the day, after the Acute Oncology session.

The prize for the best paper was awarded to Frederick Bartlett of the Royal Marsden Hospital, London, UK for his talk entitled “Optimisation and individualisation of heart-sparing breast radiotherapy techniques” ; Carolyn Taylor and her colleagues from the University of Oxford UK won the poster prixe for a poster entitled “A dose-response relationship for the incidence of radiation-related heart disease”.


Bartlett's talk presented results from the HeartSpare study, which was designed to reduce the radiation dose received by heart tissues during radiotherapy for breast cancer.

This can be reduced if the patients are helped to hold their breath throughout the treatment. The HeartSpare study tested the utility of two techniques: active breathing control (ABC) using a digital spirometer and voluntary deep inspiration.

Twenty-three breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy were randomised to receive one breath-hold technique for their first eight fractions and switched to the other for a second eight fractions.

Both techniques were found to be equally effective; all patients' hearts moved out of the radiation field during breath hold, and the radiation doses received by heart tissue were low.

As the patients found the voluntary procedure more comfortable, and as it is cheaper, this technique is likely to be preferred.


Other talks in the radiotherapy session were given by Kate Vallis from the University of Oxford, UK; Ester Hammond of the Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology, also at Oxford, and Sebastian Gnosa of the University of Linköping in Sweden.

Vallis presented an in vivo radio-imaging study of the DNA damage response during tumour development.

Hammond suggested that inhibition of the kinase ATR would be an effective way to sensitise hypoxic tumour cells to radiotherapy, and Gnosa described the relationship between the expression of astrocyte elevated gene 1 (AEG-1) and response to radiotherapy in rectal cancer. This may be useful in predicting both prognosis and radiotherapy response.


The RCR sponsored sessions ended with a short talk about the development of COAST, an educational software tool to support training in image contouring for radiotherapy planning. This tool was demonstrated on the Royal College's stand in the exhibition hall and will shortly be available on the RCR website.





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