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Dr. L. Christine Fang presents challenging cases at the NAPT conference

Dr. L. Christine Fang presents challenging cases at the NAPT conference

Dr. L. Christine Fang is a breast cancer specialist who has been treating patients at the SCCA Proton Therapy Center since it opened in 2013. Dr. Fang presented at the National Association of Proton Therapy (NAPT) Annual Conference in April. She was invited to speak about challenging breast cases and was asked to present two very specific scenarios: one that involved a patient with limited arm mobility, and another that involved a patient requiring radiation treatment to both breasts, called bilateral treatment.

Patients can often have limited arm mobility after surgery for breast cancer. “With conventional X-ray therapy, breast cancer patients need to raise their arms above the head as the radiation beams enter from the side.  When patients have limited range of motion in the arm, it can be very challenging to get into an acceptable treatment position, “says Dr. Fang. “Proton therapy allows us to treat the patient with their arm down because the proton beam does not have to come from the side.”  Decreased arm mobility may be from pre-existing conditions such as arthritis, injury, frozen shoulder, or decreased range of motion as the result of the breast cancer surgery.

The bilateral case Dr. Fang presented at the conference was one of the most challenging cases to date for the breast cancer team at the Proton Center.

“Not only were we treating both breasts, the chest wall and lymph nodes,” says Dr. Fang, “one breast had already received radiation in the past and there were lymph nodes that required additional treatment. Protons allowed us to minimize the overlap in radiation exposure to the non-targeted areas and treat the nodes to an adequate dose.” Treating all of the affected areas while avoiding as much healthy tissue as possible was a significant accomplishment. Minimizing radiation to the heart is extremely important because cardiac complications can often happen after treatment.

At the conference, physicians also shared updates on the RADCOMP (Radiotherapy Comparative Effectiveness) trial comparing conventional radiation using X-rays and proton therapy for breast cancer. This trial focuses on how much proton therapy can minimize cardiovascular events after treatment. The study has almost reached its goal of 1,200 patients. Once the goal is met, the trial will close, and physicians will gather follow-up data on patients’ heart and lung health over time. Nationally, Dr. Fang is the second highest enroller for this trial. This is the largest and fastest accruing proton trial to date.    

Please reach out to us if you have questions about the clinical trial or Dr. Fang’s work.