Dr. Weintritt is among the first in Virginia to adopt an innovative new device that improves the treatment of breast cancer, by more precisely targeting radiation treatment and providing for better follow-up exams.

He has helped pioneer use of the BioZorb™ marker, which is placed during lumpectomy surgery performed to remove the cancer as part of breast conservation therapy.

unnamedThe unique three-dimensional BioZorb marker is the first device that identifies in a fixed, 3D manner where the tumor was removed. It helps the radiation oncologist more reliably determine where to aim the radiation.

The marker consists of a spiral made of a bioabsorbable material that holds six titanium clips. The spiral slowly dissolves in the body over the course of a year or more. The tiny marker clips stay in place so the surgical site can be viewed for long-term monitoring.

“One reason this new marker is a great advance is that it allows us to more accurately locate the area where the tumor was removed,” said Dr. Weintritt. “As a breast surgeon, I don’t have to try to describe to the radiation treatment planners where the tumor was located. The marker is sutured right to the site and shows the radiation oncologist exactly where to focus the beam. Put another way, we can precisely target the cells we need to treat, without endangering healthy ones during radiation therapy.”

Breast cancer can be treated by mastectomy (breast removal) or by lumpectomy. With lumpectomy, a small amount of tissue containing the tumor is removed. In addition to the surgery, radiation treatment is typically added to “clean up” any microscopic cancer cells that might remain behind in the breast.

Prior to development of the marker, radiation treatments usually had to be directed at a larger portion of the breast tissue. While this approach is proven to reduce the risk of recurrence, it can also expose healthy tissues to radiation.

“This new device helps us to more easily locate the breast cancer site and see it in three dimensions,” said Jane Grayson, M.D., a radiation oncologist at Inova Alexandria Hospital. “It’s especially important for women who have chemotherapy before their radiation treatment, when time and healing can obscure the lumpectomy site.”

Among local patients who have benefited from the BioZorb device is Janis Monk, 53, an attorney with a federal government agency. In 2014, an abnormality was detected by a routine mammogram.

Monk’s gynecologist referred her to Dr. Weintritt for her breast cancer surgery. The operation was challenging from a cosmetic standpoint, because of the tumor’s location close to the skin.

“There is a question about whether the body will completely fill in the space during the healing process,” said Dr. Weintritt. “The BioZorb device can help overcome this problem by serving as a structure for new tissue to build around. That is exactly what happened for Janis, leading to a very satisfying cosmetic outcome.”

Dr. Weintritt said that during the healing process, the device seems to act as a framework that can also help to retain the natural shape of the breast.

“My biggest concern was coming out of this experience in good health but, of course, I wanted my appearance to be intact, too,” Monk said. “I couldn’t be happier how things turned out. My doctors and nurses have told me that if they hadn’t seen the charts, they wouldn’t have even known I’d had surgery.”

Dr. Weintritt said he’s especially pleased with how the 3D marker it fits with newer breast reconstruction techniques such as oncoplastic surgery, which combines plastic surgery methods and breast surgery.

“Oncoplastic surgery has been a great advance in our field, but it also creates issues about how to accurately mark the surgical site for radiation therapy,” he said. “The BioZorb device helps eliminate those challenges because it shows us exactly where the surgical site is even when oncoplastic surgery has been performed in that area.”