Treatment for bilateral breast cancer with radiation therapy is technically challenging. We evaluated the clinical and dosimetric outcomes of a small series of patients with synchronous bilateral breast cancer, including a photon dosimetric comparison, to identify optimal treatment planning approaches.
We reviewed a registry of patients (simultaneously) diagnosed with synchronous bilateral breast cancers who underwent postoperative definitive adjuvant proton therapy at our institution between 2012 and 2021. All patients were treated with double-scattered proton or pencil-beam scanning therapies. For comparison, intensity-modulated radiation therapy photon plans optimized for organ sparing and coverage were generated after treatment.
Six patients were included. The median patient age was 66 years; all were female with no history of breast cancer or radiation therapy. Two (33%) patients received breast/chest wall–only treatments, 1 (17%) required breast plus level I axillary treatment to one side and breast plus regional nodal irradiation (RNI) to the other, and 3 (50%) received bilateral breast/chest plus RNI; dosimetric results are reported for each group's median. Analysis showed clinical target coverage was comparable between proton and photon techniques (V95% of 96.4% with proton, 97.8% with photon). However, protons could deliver superior organ sparing at clinically relevant dose metrics for virtually all structures: a 6.7 Gy absolute reduction in the mean heart dose (7.5 Gy with photons to 0.7 Gy with protons), a 47% to 57% relative reduction in D0.1cm3 to coronary arteries, a 54% relative reduction in lung V20 Gy, and an absolute 7.6 Gy reduction to the brachial plexus. There was also greater esophagus and spinal cord sparing. The overall survival rate was 100% at 1.5 years of median follow-up (0.5-4.9), and all patients were free of disease. For toxicity, all patients had some form of acute side effects: 66% experienced grade 2 breast/chest pain or soreness; 100% had grade 2 radiation dermatitis or skin induration; 33% had grade 2 fatigue; and 17% had grade 2 esophagitis (per the Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events [CTCAE] version 5.0; US National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland). Subacute toxicity (within 6 months) was observed for 17% of patients with delayed onset of grade 3 dermatitis in the setting of preexisting lupus, 17% with a delayed surgical wound complication, and 17% with grade 2 soft tissue fibrosis. No grade 4 or 5 events were observed.
Substantial dose reductions to multiple organs at risk while maintaining target coverage make proton the preferred modality for bilateral breast cancer treatment when available.