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Lourdes Now Offers Minimally Invasive Radiation Treatment for Liver Tumors

Lourdes Now Offers Minimally Invasive Radiation Treatment for Liver Tumors

A minimally invasive radiation treatment for liver tumors is now available at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center.

Yttrium-90 (Y-90) radioembolization targets cancer by injecting special beads into the blood vessels feeding the tumor. The beads, called microspheres, deliver a high dose of short-range radiation to the tumor while sparing surrounding healthy tissue.

“As a transplant center and a hospital active in the treatment of liver cancer and liver disease, it is imperative to offer this therapy,” said Lourdes interventional radiologist Joseph Broudy, MD. “In patients with primary liver cancer, Y-90 can bridge patients to transplantation, prolong survival and improve quality of life. It can also be used to treat liver metastases from any other type of cancer.”  

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 40,000 adults will be diagnosed with primary liver cancer this year. More commonly, cancer will spread, or metastasize, to the liver from another part of the body, such as the colon. It’s estimated that more than 135,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2017. Fifty percent of people with colorectal cancer will develop liver metastases.

Surgery to remove the tumor and an organ transplant offer the best chances to cure liver cancer.

“However, many patients are not candidates for surgery because the tumors may be too large, too numerous or have spread to other organs or vital structures,” said Dr. Broudy. “Transplant may be an option for some patients, but wait times for a new liver often are long.”

Other treatment options include chemotherapy, targeted drugs and radiation. These therapies may be used alone or in combination, and have been shown to prolong life expectancy.

Y-90 radioembolization (also called selective internal radiation therapy) is done using X-ray imaging to guide a catheter into the artery supplying the tumor.

The interventional radiologist first inserts a catheter into the femoral artery through an incision in the groin. It is then guided into the hepatic artery. Millions of microspheres containing isotope Y-90–each about one-third the width of a human hair–are inserted through a micro-catheter into the tumor’s blood supply.

Once the microspheres lodge at the tumor site, they deliver a high dose of radiation to the cancer cells with minimal exposure to surrounding healthy liver tissue. The infusion process takes only a few minutes. Patients are discharged approximately two hours following the treatment.

“Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) allows a much larger dose of radiation delivery to the tumor compared to external beam radiation,” said Dr. Broudy. “Following the treatment, the radiation from the Y-90 decays and disappears completely after about 30 days. The microspheres remain in the liver without problem.”

Based on how well the tumor has responded to the Y-90, some patients may require additional infusions.

Studies have shown that Y-90 radioembolization can shrink liver tumors, relieve painful symptoms, improve quality of life and extend a patient’s life by months or years. In some cases, it may allow for more curative options, such as surgery or liver transplantation.

A recent study has shown that the addition of Y-90 to standard treatment slows the progression of colorectal liver tumors more effectively. It has been designated as a recommended, standard-of-care treatment for colorectal liver metastases.

Research results will soon be available as to whether Y-90 should become a first-line treatment, compared to its current status for patients whose disease no longer responds to chemotherapy.

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