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Improving Cancer Treatment through Research

“Virginia Hospital Center has the most experience with APBI in the Mid-Atlantic region and is one of the nation’s few designated centers of excellence for APBI.”
— Robert Hong, MD

The Hitt Family Center for Radiation Oncology at Virginia Hospital Center not only treats patients who are battling cancer today, it also performs critical research that will help define the best methods to treat cancer in the future. Under the leadership of Robert Hong, MD, Chief of Radiation Oncology, the department has presented original research at the American Society for Radiation Oncology every year since its inception and has had multiple studies published in prestigious medical journals.
This fall, the department’s findings from two studies on the effectiveness of accelerated partial breast irradiation, or APBI, for the treatment of breast cancer have been accepted for publication in two journals.
Typically, radiation therapy following lumpectomy surgery for breast cancer involves 35 daily sessions over seven weeks. APBI takes just five days. A catheter is temporarily embedded in the tumor site following lumpectomy surgery. A radiation source inserted into the catheter delivers radiation to the surgical cavity twice a day. The treatment does less damage to healthy tissue and produces fewer side effects, such as fatigue and skin burns.
Virginia Hospital Center is one of only a few centers in the country that treats patients using all five types of APBI applicators approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
“Most programs only offer one type of applicator,” says Dr. Hong. “By offering all options for APBI, we are able to tailor treatments for each individual patient — and we do it with better outcomes and less toxicity. Our expertise across multiple devices ensures that all our patients who are eligible for APBI will get treated.” One study examined nearly 600 patients treated with APBI at Virginia Hospital Center between 2008 and 2014 and analyzed how the five applicators differed in terms of toxicity and tumor control. It looked at the myriad body types of patients, as well as the size of tumors and the tumor cavities and which type of device provided the best treatment in each instance.
“What we found was some APBI devices are better for certain patients than others, but that tumor control was excellent across all devices,” Dr. Hong says.
In the second study, Virginia Hospital Center was one of 14 institutions nationwide participating in a five-year retrospective analysis of 250 patients who had APBI using the SAVI® device. The results confirmed excellent tumor control and survival with low toxicity comparable to other APBI devices.
“By conducting research and looking back at the patients we have treated, we enhance our current understanding, which makes our treatment that much better,” Dr. Hong says. “We’re also using this information to help other practitioners and patients make informed decisions about treatment.”


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