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MIT aims radar research at breast cancer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- A breast cancer treatment based on MIT radar research that was originally aimed at detecting space-borne missiles is showing promise in the final phase of clinical testing.

Preliminary results to be presented on Wednesday, April 21 at the 9th International Congress on Hyperthermic Oncology in St. Louis show that women with early-stage breast cancer who received the MIT treatment prior to lumpectomy had a 43 percent reduction in the incidence rate of cancer cells found close to the surgical margins. This is important because additional breast surgery and/or radiation therapy are often recommended for patients that have cancer cells close to the edge of the lumpectomy surgical margin.

"One of the primary objectives of this randomized study is to demonstrate that heat can affect and kill early-stage breast cancer cells prior to surgery," said William C. Dooley, director of surgical oncology at the University of Oklahoma Breast Institute and principal investigator of the ongoing study. "With this focused heat treatment, it may be possible for the surgeon to provide better margins for the patient and possibly avoid additional treatment procedures and avoid recurrence of the cancer."

Since October 2002, 90 women with early-stage breast cancer have enrolled in the study, in which microwave energy focused externally on the breast is delivered to tumors prior to lumpectomy. The goal is to use focused heat to kill tumor cells and reduce additional surgery (see earlier story at http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/nr/2000/fenn.html).

The current results are based on the 64 women who have completed the study.

Treating cancer with heat is not a new idea, but "researchers were having trouble using it to treat tumors deep within the body," said Alan Fenn, a senior staff member at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and inventor of the technique. Further, it's difficult to deli
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Contact: Elizabeth Thomson
thomson@mit.edu
617-258-5402
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
15-Apr-2004


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