New Liver Cancer Treatment Targets Tumors

It delivers radiation directly to malignant cells

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THURSDAY, April 29, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A new interventional radiology treatment for liver cancer that delivers radiation directly to the tumor is safe even in patients with compromised liver blood flow.

That's the conclusion of a study in the April issue of the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Radiology.

The radiation is delivered using a technique called embolization, a well-established procedure designed to block a tumor's blood supply, causing the tumor to shrink.

When performing embolization, an interventional radiologist inserts a catheter into the fermoral artery through a tiny incision in the groin. The catheter is guided through the artery to its target.

Through the catheter, tiny particles called microspheres (about the size of grains of sand) are released into the blood vessels feeding the liver tumor. The microspheres block the flow of blood to the tumor.

This new treatment combines a radioactive isotope into the microspheres. These isotope-loaded microspheres move to the tumor, without bothering to cause much blockage of blood flow, and deliver the isotopes directly to the tumor.

This in-patient procedure allows for a higher, local dose of radiation to be used on liver tumors without exposing healthy tissues to radiation, the study found.

"This interventional radiology treatment is a particularly elegant way to give patients a cancer treatment that doesn't harm the healthy cells. So they don't feel sick or have many of the side effects that happen with standard cancer treatments," study author Dr. Riad Salem, an interventional radiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said in a prepared statement.

His study included 15 patients who received a total of 29 treatments using this new technique.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about liver cancer.

SOURCE: Society of Interventional Radiology, news release, April 2004

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