The Department of Radiation Oncology at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica is seeking women diagnosed with breast cancer who have a breast implant — or have plans to undergo breast reconstruction using an implant — and who need radiation therapy to participate in a new study.

The study will examine whether the drug Amifostine, also known as Ethyol, can help reduce the cosmetic problems and discomfort that often occur when a breast implant is irradiated, according to Dr. May Lin Tao, principal investigator and radiation oncologist at Saint John’s Health Center.

“Because of early diagnosis and new treatments, women with breast cancer are living longer and more are being cured of the disease,” Tao said. “This has led researchers to look more closely at quality of life issues such as improving the look and feel of a woman’s breast after breast cancer treatment.”

Twenty to 40 patients are needed for the pilot study, which is being conducted at five Los Angeles-area hospitals, including Saint John’s Health Center.

Participants must be at least 18 years old and have breast cancer that has not moved beyond the breast and lymph nodes.

Amifostine will be administered as an injection under the skin just before a patient undergoes radiation treatment.

The injections will be given during the course of the patient’s standard radiation therapy, which is typically five days a week for six to seven weeks.

In addition to being monitored for side effects of radiation, patients will also be monitored for side effects caused by Amifostine. Amifostine may cause nausea, rash and/or mild fever.

Six to 12 months after completion of radiation therapy, patients will be examined for the appearance and comfort of their breast implants. Information, (310) 829-8913.