Liver Cancer


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Targeted Treatment for Liver Cancer

We are now offering an innovative treatment for liver cancer called Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT). In the past, we were able to offer patients few, if any, targeted treatment options for liver cancer. Today, using SIRT, a minimally invasive treatment, we can deliver radiation via a catheter directly to the liver tumors, while sparing healthy tissue. It has proven to be a powerful weapon against one of the deadliest forms of cancer.

Liver cancer is usually treated with a combination of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. However, some liver tumors are too large to remove via surgery, and normal liver tissue is particularly susceptible to external radiation methods.

During SIRT, interventional radiologists inject millions of tiny radioactive beads directly into the blood vessels that feed the liver tumors. The beads block blood flow to the tumors while delivering powerful doses of radiation—all without harming adjacent healthy tissue.

Advanced Image Guidance
Key to the success of SIRT is DynaCT, a new imaging system that provides real-time, three-dimensional images of the liver anatomy and surrounding vasculature before and during the procedure. The DynaCT system was recently purchased with funds from the Saint Elizabeth Foundation. It allows us to pinpoint tumors and blood vessels. It can be used for SIRT as well as other types of procedures that require precise placement of needles and catheters, such as chemoembolization, which delivers chemotherapy drugs into the tumor-feeding blood vessels.

How it Works
About a week before the SIRT procedure, patients undergo a planning procedure. Using the DynaCT system, radiologists map the location of the tumors and block off certain blood vessels to prevent the radioactive beads from migrating outside the liver. The procedure itself takes about two hours and is done under anesthesia. Using the previously mapped images along with real-time DynaCT guidance, radiologists guide a catheter from the femoral artery in the groin into the hepatic artery, the primary blood supply for liver tumors.

They then inject the radioactive beads, or microspheres, which are composed of a biocompatible material laced with the radioactive element yttrium-90, or Y-90. The microspheres are about five times the diameter of a red blood cell, and they easily travel through the hepatic artery before becoming permanently implanted in the smaller capillaries feeding the tumors.

Patients are able to leave the hospital the same day or the next. Over the next week or two, the microspheres deliver radiation to the tumor. After that, they lose their radioactivity but remain permanently implanted in the blood vessels.

Listen to Dr. Eric Vander Woude and Dr. Rahul Razdan explain how this innovative new treatment works.