Hope for Even the Toughest Cancer Cases

Liver cancer patients live longer with Y-90 radioembolization

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Whether the cancer begins in the liver or spreads there, these tumors are among the toughest to treat. A new therapy offers comfort to patients struggling with the disease.

Advances in a type of radioembolization, in which radioactive beads are injected directly into tumors,  has proven successful in extending the lives of liver cancer patients. Two studies have shown the therapy to be effective for patients whose tumors can't be surgically removed.

"Y-90 radioembolization offers new comfort for liver cancer patients."

The therapy is called yttrium-90 (Y-90) radioembolization and is a minimally invasive procedure that can be tailored to meet individual treatment needs. This is not curative therapy; rather, is palliative (provides relief) for patients in late stages of the disease.

Lead investigator of one of the studies, Daniel Sze, M.D., Ph.D., FSIR, professor of interventional radiology at Stanford University Medical Center, explained to dailyRx that radioembolization has risks. "This technique can result in spillage onto healthy tissue or incomplete treatment within the liver," said Dr. Sze.

The latest advances in Y-90 radioembolization now "facilitate more complete treatment in the liver," Dr. Sze said.

Riad Salem, M.D., MBA, FSIR, says this research allows treatments to be tailored "to help even the sickest patients achieve a better quality of life."

Dr. Salem, who is professor of radiology, medicine and surgery and director of interventional oncology at Northwestern University in Chicago, wrote an accompanying commentary about the research.

With Y-90 radioembolization, tiny radioactive beads are injected into liver. These beads get lodged inside the tumor, emit radiation just in the tumor which causes the tumor cells to die.

One of the most recent studies testing this technique involved 35 patients. In a similar report, the same researchers were able to simplify and improve the safety of the technique by blocking various arteries to improve delivery of the beads.

According to Dr. Sze, radioembolization for liver cancer is currently available in 150 hospitals in the United States.

Researchers say that larger, multi-center studies are needed to confirm these findings, which are published in the October, 2011 Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology.

In 2010, an estimated 24,000 new cases of liver cancer were diagnosed, and some 19,500 people will die from these cancers in the United States in 2011.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 20, 2011
Last Updated:
October 22, 2011