Buying Time for Liver Cancer Patients

Treatment that delivers chemotherapy right to tumor helps them survive longer

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FRIDAY, June 20, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A form of cancer treatment called chemoembolization helps people with liver cancer survive well beyond the six-month average achieved using other treatments.

The treatment is a minimally invasive procedure that delivers chemotherapy directly to a tumor and cuts off the tumor's blood supply.

It can provide liver cancer patients with up to three more years of life and, more importantly, offers them a sustained quality of life, Dr. Jeff Geschwind, section chief of interventional radiology and associate professor of radiology, surgery and oncology at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, says in a news release.

He discussed the treatment during a June 19 presentation at a Radiological Society of North America media briefing in New York City.

During chemoembolization, a catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin and threaded to the artery that supplied blood to the liver tumor. After X-rays are taken of the tumor area, a high dose of chemotherapy agents mixed with an oil-like medium are injected. The oil droplets carry the chemotherapy drugs to the tumor.

An embolizing material is then injected to close the blood vessels leading to the tumor. That traps the chemotherapy drugs in the tumor. The combination of the chemotherapy drugs and lack of blood supply causes the tumor tissue to break down, resulting in the death of the tumor.

"The beauty of this technique is how precisely the oil droplets carry the drugs to the target. We also can minimize the toxicity to the patient because most of the drugs stay in the tumor. Some chemotherapy drugs have tremendous adverse side effects," Geschwind says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about liver cancer.

SOURCE: Radiological Society of North America, news release, June 19, 2003

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