Ask the Cancer Experts: Dr. Fei-Fei Liu


Here's your chance to Ask the Cancer Experts, of the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, a question. Dr. Fei-Fei Liu tackles explains the connection between radiation and chemotherapy. #conquercancer
The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is one of the Top 5 Cancer Research Centers in the world.
Andrea: Is radiation really necessary after chemotherapy? Does it actually help improve your prognosis?
We went to Dr. Fei-Fei Liu, neuro-oncologist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, to tell us more about radiation.

Dr. Liu: Thank you Andrea for that question. The answer is that radiation absolutely improves outcome for patients even after they've had chemotherapy. 

What chemotherapy and radiation do, they're very, very different in terms of their mechanism of action and helping our patients. Chemotherapy circulates around the blood stream, and so therefore even in patients who've had the best of surgeries there may still be a few hundred to thousands of cancer cells that may still be circulating. And so chemotherapy, if you will, mops up or kills off those circulating tumour cells in the blood steam.

Radiation, on the other hand, is a local treatment, so again even after the best of cancer surgeries there may still be some remaining cancer cells within the site of the operation, and sometimes these cancer cells may also have escaped into the draining lymph node areas. And so radiation, when it's given this way, sterilizes that environment.

So let me give you an example in the context of breast cancer. So many women undergo their lumpectomies to remove the primary tumour from the breast, and then if they require chemotherapy for the purposes I just described, then that's given after three to four months. Then we would follow and complete the entire treatment regimen by giving raadiaiton to the breast and/or the regional lymphnode areas.

There have been tens of thousands of women worldwide who have participated in many randomized clinical trials that have proven that the outcome is much better once these patients have received their local regional radiation therapy, which really significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer relapse. 

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