Biophysical skin measurements to evaluate the effectiveness of photobiomodulation therapy in the prevention of acute radiation dermatitis in breast cancer patients

  • Jolien RobijnsEmail author
  • Sandrine Censabella
  • Stefan Claes
  • Luc Pannekoeke
  • Lore Bussé
  • Dora Colson
  • Iris Kaminski
  • Joy Lodewijckx
  • Paul Bulens
  • Annelies Maes
  • Leen Noé
  • Marc Brosens
  • An Timmermans
  • Ivo Lambrichts
  • Veerle Somers
  • Jeroen Mebis
Original Article



The purpose of this study was to evaluate objectively the effectiveness of photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) for the prevention of acute radiation dermatitis (ARD) by using biophysical skin measurements.


A randomized, placebo-controlled trial with 120 breast cancer patients who underwent an identical radiotherapy (RT) regimen post-lumpectomy was performed (TRANSDERMIS trial). Patients were randomized to receive PBM (808 nm CW/905 nm pulsed, 168 mW/cm2, spot size 19.6 cm2, fluence 4 J/cm2) or placebo treatments from the first day of RT (2×/week). Biophysical skin measurements were collected to assess the skin pigmentation and barrier function. Measurements were collected at the first day of RT, a RT dose of 40 Gray (Gy), and the end of RT (66 Gy).


The incidence of moist desquamation was significantly higher in the control than in the PBMT group at the end of RT (30 vs. 7%, respectively, odds ratio = 6, p = 0.004). The biophysical skin measures showed that the mean percentage change from the baseline transepidermal water loss (TEWL), erythema, and melanin values was significantly higher in the control than in the PBMT group at the end of RT (ps < 0.05). Logistic regression analysis revealed that the risk on moist desquamation was significantly increased for patients with a large (> 800 cc) breast volume (odds ratio = 4, p = 0.017).


This is the first randomized controlled trial demonstrating by objective measurements that PBMT is effective in reducing the incidence of moist desquamation in breast cancer patients undergoing RT. Additionally, a large breast volume is an important risk factor for the development of moist desquamation.


Breast cancer Photobiomodulation therapy Radiotherapy Skin toxicity Radiation dermatitis Objective skin evaluation 



The corresponding author, Mrs. Jolien Robijns, received the Young Investigator Award of the MASCC for her scientific abstract.

Funding information

This research is part of the Limburg Clinical Research Program (LCRP) UHasselt-ZOL-Jessa, financially supported by the foundation Limburg Sterk Merk, province of Limburg, Flemish government, Hasselt University, Ziekenhuis Oost-Limburg, and Jessa Hospital. Additionally, this research is supported by Kom op Tegen Kanker, Limburgs Kankerfonds, and ASA Srl.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical approval

The ethics committees of the Jessa Hospital and the University of Hasselt approved the study (B243201524443). All procedures performed in the study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

520_2018_4487_MOESM1_ESM.docx (130 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 130 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jolien Robijns
    • 1
    Email author return OK on get
  • Sandrine Censabella
    • 2
  • Stefan Claes
    • 3
  • Luc Pannekoeke
    • 3
  • Lore Bussé
    • 1
  • Dora Colson
    • 1
  • Iris Kaminski
    • 1
  • Joy Lodewijckx
    • 1
  • Paul Bulens
    • 2
    • 3
  • Annelies Maes
    • 2
    • 3
  • Leen Noé
    • 2
    • 3
  • Marc Brosens
    • 2
    • 3
  • An Timmermans
    • 4
  • Ivo Lambrichts
    • 1
  • Veerle Somers
    • 1
  • Jeroen Mebis
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Medicine & Life SciencesHasselt UniversityHasseltBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Medical OncologyJessa HospitalHasseltBelgium
  3. 3.Limburg Oncology CentreJessa HospitalHasseltBelgium
  4. 4.Department of DermatologyJessa HospitalHasseltBelgium

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