October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month, and the experts at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper provide advanced care for patients who have liver and bile duct cancer.
The liver filters harmful substances from the blood, producing bile that helps in the digestion of fats. It also stores sugar that the body uses for energy.
Each year, more than 42,000 new cases of primary liver and intrahepatic bile duct cancer are diagnosed in the U.S., and approximately 30,000 people are expected to die of primary adult liver cancer in 2021. The five-year survival rate is only 20.3%.
Significant risk factors for primary liver cancer include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and cirrhosis.
Advanced Treatment Options
Liver cancer is a complex disease and can be difficult to treat because it is often diagnosed when it has reached an advanced stage. Surgery and radiofrequency ablation are the most common treatment options for liver cancer. Chemotherapy, targeted therapies, and radiation treatment are often used to reduce the growth of the cancer if surgery is not feasible. However, now there’s another option.
“Y90 radioembolization, or selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT), is a safe and highly successful treatment for cancer in the liver,” says Sabina Amin, MD, Head, Division of Interventional Radiology at Cooper University Health Care and MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. “It targets tumors with a high dose of radiation delivered internally, without affecting other, healthy parts of the body. It can help to extend the lives of patients with inoperable tumors, bridge patients to transplant, and improve their quality of life.”
“Y90 radioembolization is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure in which tiny beads that emit radiation are placed inside the blood vessels that feed a tumor,” explains Dr. Amin. “The beads allow us to deliver a high dose of radiation to the tumor while sparing normal tissue. The radiation decreases over time, and after two weeks the radiation is gone.” This treatment is also known as Y-90 because it commonly uses a radioactive isotope called yttrium 90.
Radioembolization is a treatment option for patients with both primary liver cancer and secondary liver cancer, which is cancer that started in another organ—like the colon or stomach—and spread to the liver.
“This treatment is not a cure for cancer, but it can prolong life for months or years and can greatly improve the quality of life of cancer patients,” says Dr. Amin.
Radioembolization is as an outpatient procedure. Patients experience few, if any, side effects and generally resume normal activities within one or two weeks.
Dr. Amin leads Cooper’s team of interventional radiologists—physicians who specialize in minimally invasive procedures that use imaging, such as MRI, CT, fluoroscopy, and ultrasound, to diagnose, treat, and cure many conditions. Interventional radiologists are part of MD Anderson at Cooper’s multidisciplinary team of cancer experts who work together to develop personalized treatment plans for each patient.
Sabina Amin, MD, is the Head of the Division of Interventional Radiology at Cooper University Health Care and MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. Visit the Liver Cancer Program page to learn more about our multidisciplinary team approach, and Cooper’s advanced imaging services.