From technological advances to biological understanding: The main steps toward high-precision RT in breast cancer

Maria Cristina Leonardi, Rosalinda Ricotti, Samantha Dicuonzo, Federica Cattani, Anna Morra, Veronica Dell'Acqua, Roberto Orecchia, Barbara Alicja Jereczek-Fossa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Radiotherapy improves local control in breast cancer (BC) patients which increases overall survival in the long term. Improvements in treatment planning and delivery and a greater understanding of BC behaviour have laid the groundwork for high-precision radiotherapy, which is bound to further improve the therapeutic index. Precise identification of target volumes, better coverage and dose homogeneity have had a positive impact on toxicity and local control. The conformity of treatment dose due to three-dimensional radiotherapy and new techniques such as intensity modulated radiotherapy makes it possible to spare surrounding normal tissue. The widespread use of dose-volume constraints and histograms have increased awareness of toxicity. Real time image guidance has improved geometric precision and accuracy, together with the implementation of quality assurance programs. Advances in the precision of radiotherapy is also based on the choice of the appropriate fractionation and approach. Adaptive radiotherapy is not only a technical concept, but is also a biological concept based on the knowledge that different types of BC have distinctive patterns of locoregional spread. A greater understanding of cancer biology helps in choosing the treatment best suited to a particular situation. Biomarkers predictive of response play a crucial role. The combination of radiotherapy with molecular targeted therapies may enhance radiosensitivity, thus increasing the cytotoxic effects and improving treatment response. The appropriateness of an alternative fractionation, partial breast irradiation, dose escalating/de-escalating approaches, the extent of nodal irradiation have been examined for all the BC subtypes. The broadened concept of adaptive radiotherapy is vital to high-precision treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Adaptive radiotherapy
  • Breast cancer
  • High-precision radiotherapy
  • Technological advances
  • Tumor biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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