A ground-breaking approach to treating breast cancer with a single targeted shot of radiation is to be given the go-ahead for National Health Service use.

Patients with early stages of the disease could - under carefully controlled circumstances - soon stand to benefit from 'intrabeam radiation', negating the need for longer stints of radiotherapy. 

In draft guidance, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is recommending funding for its use in early breast cancer, provided patients are properly informed about its pros and cons and that further data are collected.

This is because while short-term data indicate that the approach has similar efficacy to traditional radiotherapy, there is as yet no long-term data on its use.

While current evidence is not extensive, "this type of radiotherapy was more convenient for patients and can improve a person’s quality of life", said Carole Longson, director of health technology evaluation at NICE.

36,000 patients could benefit

Just six centres in the UK have administered intrabeam radiation, which is given during surgery to remove the tumour, to treat early breast cancer so far, but it is estimated that nearly 36,000 patients could benefit from this treatment.

NICE has, however, stipulated that doctors must fully inform patients of all their treatment choices so that they can make informed decisions, enter details about all of those treatment with intrabeam radiotherapy onto a national register, and audit, review and document clinical outcomes locally and consider the relationship between outcomes and patients’ characteristics.