Tiny radioactive spheres effectively treat cancer that has spread to the liver

October 29, 2007

Placing tiny radioactive spheres directly into the liver through its blood supply halted growth of tumors that had spread to the organ in 71 percent of patients tested in a small clinical trial, researchers from Mayo Clinic Jacksonville report.

They say that the technique appears to offer a treatment option for patients who develop multiple tumors in their liver from cancer metastasis.

“Most of these patients don’t have other effective treatment options, because surgery is not possible if there are multiple tumors in their liver,” says the study’s lead investigator, Laura Vallow, M.D. “But with this radiotherapy, no new tumors developed in patients who responded and we find this to be very encouraging.”

Vallow presented results of the study at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiation and Oncology (ASTRO).

She says her report is one of the first to sum up an initial clinical experience with the therapy, known as SIR-Spheres microspheres, which was approved for use by the federal Food and Drug Administration in 2002. “We are trying to determine the clinical situations in which it is best to use these microspheres,” Vallow says.

The therapy uses millions of tiny polymer beads − each one of which is about one-third the diameter of a human hair − which contain the radioactive element yttrium-90. An interventional radiologist uses a catheter to infuse the microspheres directly into the hepatic artery, which supplies all the blood to the liver. There the beads deliver radiation directly to tumors for about 11 days.

In this study, data from 20 patient procedures using microspheres at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville were analyzed. The entire liver was treated in 75 percent of the cases, and in the remaining 25 percent, either the left or right lobe of the liver was selectively targeted. Four weeks after treatment, researchers used CT scans to assess response of tumors, and found that in 71 percent, tumors decreased in size. “The tumors were smaller or less active with less contrast uptake on follow-up CT scans,” Vallow says.

The majority of patients had minimal side effects from the treatment, she says. Cancer progressed in two patients and they died within three months. But for the patients who responded, by the end of a 10-month follow-up period, no new tumors were detected, Vallow says. “Liver function tests in the responding patients have become normal or have stabilized.”

The researchers say the treatment works best in patients that have good blood flow to their tumors. “Further evaluation with longer follow-up will help clarify the benefit of this novel treatment,” Vallow says.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Explore further: Replicating liver cells for fast drug testing

Related Stories

Replicating liver cells for fast drug testing

September 10, 2015

Scientists have developed a new technique that produces a user friendly, low cost, tissue-engineered pseudo-organ. The chip-based model produces a faithful mimic of the in vivo liver inside a scalable fluid-handling device, ...

Better mouse model enables colon cancer research

May 27, 2015

Every day, it seems, someone in some lab is "curing cancer." Well, it's easy to kill cancer cells in a lab, but in a human, it's a lot more complicated, which is why nearly all cancer drugs fail clinical trials.

Training pig skin cells for neural development

May 1, 2015

A pig's skin cells may hold the key to new treatments and cures for devastating human neurological diseases. Researchers from the University of Georgia's Regenerative Bioscience Center have discovered a process of turning ...

Nano packages for anti-cancer drug delivery

March 18, 2015

Cancer stem cells are resistant to chemotherapy and consequently tend to remain in the body even after a course of treatment has finished, where they can often trigger cancer recurrence or metastasis. A new study by researchers ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.