Innovative new one-dose radiation therapy treatment now available in New Zealand

A revolutionary new radiation therapy technique is now available in New Zealand meaning some women with early breast cancer can have a single radiation treatment rather than weeks of therapy.


Focus Radiotherapy has introduced the Zeiss Intrabeam intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) system, in which a single dose of radiation is delivered during surgery for women undergoing breast conserving surgery.  This eliminates the need for a further 25 visits to hospital for post-operative radiation therapy. 


One of the founders of Focus Radiotherapy, Auckland Breast Surgeon Dr Erica Whineray Kelly says the Intrabeam technology is an excellent option for women having a lumpectomy.


“The goal of this approach is to destroy the remaining cancer cells, helping to prevent the possibility of recurrence – and in most cases – eliminating the need for weeks of radiation treatments. Women who have been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer should talk with their doctor about whether this treatment is right for them.”


The Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition chair, Libby Burgess, welcomes the introduction of “intraoperative radiotherapy” as wonderful advance for women with low-risk early breast cancer.


“The delivery of surgery and radiotherapy during a single operation will eliminate weeks of daily trips to the clinic, allowing women to avoid ongoing stress and inconvenience and return to their normal lives much faster. 


“The precise targeting of radiation to the area that the tumour was removed from will avoid unnecessary radiation to healthy tissue.  I’m delighted to see this option being offered to New Zealand women.”


The new treatment, which is delivered in around 20 to 30 minutes during surgery, provides many advantages for patients, including:

  • a reduction in radiation treatment time
  • minimised exposure to healthy tissue and organs, such as the ribs, lungs, heart and opposite breast
  • no treatment delay for patients who must also undergo chemotherapy as part of their breast cancer treatment
  • same day treatment 
  • no travel required to a radiotherapy centre for up to six weeks of daily treatment.

Only certain women will meet the criteria to be considered for intraoperative radiation therapy.  Currently it is only available to women who have early-stage breast cancer, have negative lymph nodes and are 50 and older.

Localizing the radiation inside the breast is effective because this is where cancer is most likely to recur. The international TARGIT research group has been investigating this new method of delivering radiotherapy for breast cancer in which the treatment can be delivered at the time of surgical lumpectomy since 1988. The results of the trial show the overall number of recurrences of the cancer was very low .


The Intrabeam technology is currently available only from Focus Radiotherapy and is delivered at the Southern Cross Hospital on Auckland’s North Shore.  However, eligible women from around the country will be able to travel to Auckland to have the procedure done. Talk to your doctor if you think this treatment might be right for you.

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