Chemoembolization for Treatment of Liver Cancer

Chemoembolization is considered to be the most useful treatment for patients suffering from liver cancer. This is also used to treat cancers that spread to the liver from other organs. Cancers that may be treated by chemoembolization include Hepatoma (primary liver cancer) , and Metastasis that has spread to the liver from colon cancer, breast cancer, carcinoid tumors, islet cell tumors of the pancreas, ocular melanoma, sarcomas or from other vascular primary tumors in the body.

The main aim of this treatment is to reduce the size of liver tumors thereby improving the patient’s chance of being selected for liver transplantation. Depending on the number and severity of the tumors, this treatment may be used solely or with other treatment options such as radiation or surgery.

The liver has two blood supplies - an artery and a vein. The liver gets most of its blood from vein and small amount of blood from the artery. As the tumor in the liver grows, most of the blood is supplied from the artery and none from the vein. Chemotherapy drugs injected into the artery reaches the tumor directly, sparing most of the healthy liver tissue. When the artery is blocked, the blood supply to the tumor is stopped, while the liver continues to receive blood from the vein.

A high dose of chemotherapy is put straight into the tumor that limits the blood supply to the tumor. This deprives the tumor of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow. With x-ray guidance, a catheter is placed into the artery in the liver that supplies blood to the tumor. Embolic agents are sent through the catheter into the tumor that blocks the flow of blood to the cancer tissue.

This image- guided, minimally invasive procedure is most often performed by a specially trained interventional radiologist.


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