Radiation Research May Shorten Treatment Time For Certain Breast Cancer Patients

By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) – Research underway at the University of Colorado Hospital could shorten the course of radiation therapy for certain breast cancer patients. The new clinical trial is the only one of its kind in the U.S.

One patient in Denver joined the study in hopes of speeding up treatment to get her busy life back to normal.

Stylist Mindy Verdecchio has had enough of being a patient. Verdecchio enjoys her work cutting and coloring hair, running her own business in Cherry Creek North. She loves her husband and children. But a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, seven months of fighting breast cancer, have taken a toll.

Mindy Verdecchio (credit: CBS)

Mindy Verdecchio (credit: CBS)

“Being a patient is like, like another job,” Verdecchio told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

So the mother of two jumped at the chance to join a clinical trial at the University of Colorado Hospital.

Radiation Oncologist Dr. Christine Fisher is looking for node positive breast cancer patients.

“Meaning their cancer has moved from the breast to the lymph nodes,” Fisher explained.

CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh interviews radiation oncologist Dr. Christine Fisher (credit: CBS)

CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh interviews radiation oncologist Dr. Christine Fisher (credit: CBS)

Fisher is studying hypofractionated radiation therapy. It means fewer, but larger, radiation treatments. Normally, Verdecchio would have had radiation five days a week for six weeks, 30 total treatments. In the clinical trial, she’ll undergo 19 treatments.

“My entire process is about a year-and-a-half. To take just two weeks out of that, totally worth it to me,” said Verdecchio.

Fisher says completing radiation in four weeks instead of six is already being done successfully in other countries.

“And in some trials, we’ve actually seen better results with the shorter approach,” said Fisher.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“We’re just so sick of all this,” said Verdecchio with a sigh.

Cutting the course of radiation means a lot to her and her kids.

“I think my children, feeling like this is coming to an end quicker is worth every bit,” said Verdecchio.

Fisher is an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Radiation Oncology Residency Program Director. She is currently enrolling node positive breast cancer patients in the study.

Researchers are also enrolling patients at two other UCHealth hospitals:

– Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins
– UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs

This is the first investigator-initiated clinical trial, funded by the University of Colorado Cancer Center, to be made available to patients across the UCHealth system. CU Cancer Center is the only comprehensive cancer center in Colorado as designated by the National Cancer Institute.

Women interested in enrolling in the study can call the Radiation Oncology Department at 720-848-0154.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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