Researchers at the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) in Mumbai have developed a groundbreaking low-cost clinical intervention for those fighting breast cancer. They believe it can significantly improve the chances of remission and survival among individuals undergoing treatment for breast cancer.
The new technique involves the administration of a commonly available local anaesthetic lidocaine/lignocaine via injection around the tumour, minutes before surgery. This was shown to prevent metastases of the tumour and improve surgical outcomes in breast cancer individuals.
“There is a critical window of opportunity around the time of surgery when anti-cancer interventions can reduce the risk of metastatic breast cancer later in a patient’s life,” explained Dr Rajendra Badwe, Director, Tata Memorial Centre, principal investigator of the study, in a statement.
The injection is administered just 7-10 minutes before breast cancer surgery and costs less than Rs 100 for an individual. Lignocaine was selected as it has an inhibitory effect on breast cancer cell division and movement, along with other anti-cancer properties.
Dr Badwe also said that the inexpensive injection required no additional expertise to administer and if adopted, could end up saving as many as 1 million lives globally every year, particularly in the fight against breast cancer.
Dr Badwe’s team at TMC conducted their study at 11 cancer centres over a span of 11 years, between 2011 and 2022. It was a randomised controlled trial that involved 1,600 women with early breast cancer who were planned to be treated with surgery.
In the case of half of the study’s participants, they received standard surgery followed by postoperative treatment including chemotherapy, hormone therapy and radiotherapy, as per guidelines set for treating breast cancer.
The other half received the same surgery and post-operative treatment but were given the injection of lignocaine just before they went under the knife. Both groups were followed up for several years to compare rates of cure and survival, with a particular focus on breast cancer patients.
The results of the study which were published in the journal Clinical Oncology, showed the group that received the local anesthesia injection exhibited a 26% relative reduction in the risk of breast cancer relapse or death compared to the control group. Furthermore, those who received the injection showed a 29% improvement in overall survival rate compared to those in the control group.
“This study provides an inexpensive and immediately implementable treatment in the fight against breast cancer, which can be practised by every surgeon who treats this disease,” said Dr Sudeep Gupta, Professor of Medical Oncology, Tata Memorial Centre and Director of ACTREC. This study is proof that Indian centres can design and conduct studies which have a global impact in the battle against breast cancer, according to Dr Gupta.