Background: Based on our laboratory work and clinical trials we hypothesised that radiotherapy after lumpectomy for breast cancer could be restricted to the tumour bed. In collaboration with the industry we developed a new radiotherapy device and a new surgical operation for delivering single-dose radiation to the tumour bed – the tissues at highest risk of local recurrence. We named it TARGeted Intraoperative radioTherapy (TARGIT). From 1998 we confirmed its feasibility and safety in pilot studies.

Objective: To compare TARGIT within a risk-adapted approach with whole-breast external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) over several weeks.

Design: The TARGeted Intraoperative radioTherapy Alone (TARGIT-A) trial was a pragmatic, prospective, international, multicentre, non-inferiority, non-blinded, randomised (1 : 1 ratio) clinical trial. Originally, randomisation occurred before initial lumpectomy (prepathology) and, if allocated TARGIT, the patient received it during the lumpectomy. Subsequently, the postpathology stratum was added in which randomisation occurred after initial lumpectomy, allowing potentially easier logistics and a more stringent case selection, but which needed a reoperation to reopen the wound to give TARGIT as a delayed procedure. The risk-adapted approach meant that, in the experimental arm, if pre-specified unsuspected adverse factors were found postoperatively after receiving TARGIT, EBRT was recommended. Pragmatically, this reflected how TARGIT would be practised in the real world.

Setting: Thirty-three centres in 11 countries.

Participants: Women who were aged ≥ 45 years with unifocal invasive ductal carcinoma preferably ≤ 3.5 cm in size.

Interventions: TARGIT within a risk-adapted approach and whole-breast EBRT.

Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was absolute difference in local recurrence, with a non-inferiority margin of 2.5%. Secondary outcome measures included toxicity and breast cancer-specific and non-breast-cancer mortality.

Results: In total, 3451 patients were recruited between March 2000 and June 2012. The following values are 5-year Kaplan–Meier rates for TARGIT compared with EBRT. There was no statistically significant difference in local recurrence between TARGIT and EBRT. TARGIT was non-inferior to EBRT overall [TARGIT 3.3%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.1% to 5.1% vs. EBRT 1.3%, 95% CI 0.7% to 2.5%; p = 0.04; Pnon-inferiority = 0.00000012] and in the prepathology stratum (n = 2298) when TARGIT was given concurrently with lumpectomy (TARGIT 2.1%, 95% CI 1.1% to 4.2% vs. EBRT 1.1%, 95% CI 0.5% to 2.5%; p = 0.31; Pnon-inferiority = 0.0000000013). With delayed TARGIT postpathology (n = 1153), the between-group difference was larger than 2.5% and non-inferiority was not established for this stratum (TARGIT 5.4%, 95% CI 3.0% to 9.7% vs. EBRT 1.7%, 95% CI 0.6% to 4.9%; p = 0.069; Pnon-inferiority = 0.06640]. The local recurrence-free survival was 93.9% (95% CI 90.9% to 95.9%) when TARGIT was given with lumpectomy compared with 92.5% (95% CI 89.7% to 94.6%) for EBRT (p = 0.35). In a planned subgroup analysis, progesterone receptor (PgR) status was found to be the only predictor of outcome: hormone-responsive patients (PgR positive) had similar 5-year local recurrence with TARGIT during lumpectomy (1.4%, 95% CI 0.5% to 3.9%) as with EBRT (1.2%, 95% CI 0.5% to 2.9%; p = 0.77). Grade 3 or 4 radiotherapy toxicity was significantly reduced with TARGIT. Overall, breast cancer mortality was much the same between groups (TARGIT 2.6%, 95% CI 1.5% to 4.3% vs. EBRT 1.9%, 95% CI 1.1% to 3.2%; p = 0.56) but there were significantly fewer non-breast-cancer deaths with TARGIT (1.4%, 95% CI 0.8% to 2.5% vs. 3.5%, 95% CI 2.3% to 5.2%; p = 0.0086), attributable to fewer deaths from cardiovascular causes and other cancers, leading to a trend in reduced overall mortality in the TARGIT arm (3.9%, 95% CI 2.7% to 5.8% vs. 5.3%, 95% CI 3.9% to 7.3%; p = 0.099]. Health economic analyses suggest that TARGIT was statistically significantly less costly than EBRT, produced similar quality-adjusted life-years, had a positive incremental net monetary benefit that was borderline statistically significantly different from zero and had a probability of > 90% of being cost-effective. There appears to be little uncertainty in the point estimates, based on deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses. If TARGIT were given instead of EBRT in suitable patients, it might potentially reduce costs to the health-care providers in the UK by £8–9.1 million each year. This does not include environmental, patient and societal costs.

Limitations: The number of local recurrences is small but the number of events for local recurrence-free survival is not as small (TARGIT 57 vs. EBRT 59); occurrence of so few events (< 3.5%) also implies that both treatments are effective and any difference is unlikely to be large. Not all 3451 patients were followed up for 5 years; however, more than the number of patients required to answer the main trial question (n = 585) were followed up for > 5 years.

Conclusions: For patients with breast cancer (women who are aged ≥ 45 years with hormone sensitive invasive ductal carcinoma that is up to 3.5 cm in size), TARGIT concurrent with lumpectomy within a risk-adapted approach is as effective as, safer than and less expensive than postoperative EBRT.

Future work: The analyses will be repeated with longer follow-up. Although this may not change the primary result, the larger number of events may confirm the effect on overall mortality and allow more detailed subgroup analyses. The TARGeted Intraoperative radioTherapy Boost (TARGIT-B) trial is testing whether or not a tumour bed boost given intraoperatively (TARGIT) boost is superior to a tumour bed boost given as part of postoperative EBRT.

Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN34086741 and ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00983684.

Funding: University College London Hospitals (UCLH)/University College London (UCL) Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre, UCLH Charities, Ninewells Cancer Campaign, National Health and Medical Research Council and German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). From September 2009 this project was funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 20, No. 73. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.


TARGeted Intraoperative radioTherapy (TARGIT), conventional postoperative radiotherapy, breast-conserving surgery, early-stage breast cancer