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Latest Treatment Options for Liver Cancer

written by: Vikas Vij • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 2/28/2011

The latest treatment for liver cancer involves intense radiation delivered directly to the tumor in the liver. The treatment is called Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT).

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    Advanced Liver-Directed Therapies

    A number of therapies are used to treat liver cancer patients in varying stages. The latest treatment for liver cancer that is being used at the University of Maryland, Greenebaum Cancer Center is the Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT). This radiological intervention is currently being used in cases where surgical removal of the cancer is not possible. SIRT is a non-surgical treatment which makes use of tiny radioactive spheres that deliver intense radiation directly to the tumor.

    This methodology enables the doctor to deliver up to 40 times greater radiation to the tumor area compared to the traditional external beam radiotherapy. These radioactive spheres are delivered precisely to the tumors, irrespective of their location or size. The dose is very high compared to conventional radiation therapies, but due to the selective targeting method, it spares the healthy tissue surrounding the affected area. This treatment has shown promising results with enhanced life expectancy and an improved quality of life for the patient.

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    Selective Internal Radiation Therapy for Liver Cancer

    The use of microscopic radioactive glass beads is the latest treatment for liver cancer. These beads or “SIR-spheres” have been developed by a private medical research firm in Australia called Sirtex Medical. The U.S. FDA approved it for cancer patients in 2002, and now it is among the latest therapies being offered to patients of inoperable liver cancer.

    The delivery mechanism of the SIR-Spheres involves advanced digital imaging to ensure precision guidance of the catheter into the hepatic artery. The treatment is usually performed as an out-patient procedure. It takes nearly one hour and most patients exhibit a good tolerance to it. Within a few hours of the procedure, the patient is fit enough to go back home. This latest treatment should not be construed as a cure for advanced liver cancer, but it has demonstrated more effective results compared to chemotherapy alone.

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    Latest Surgical Options to Treat Liver Cancer

    The liver is one of the unique organs in the body that has an exceptional capacity to regenerate itself. It can continue to function even when up to 80 percent of the liver tissue is surgically removed. If the tumor is confined only to the liver, surgical resection of the cancerous tissue is still the best treatment option. With the advancements in laser surgery, it is now possible to perform the procedure in a minimally invasive manner.

    Laparoscopic resection just requires a few tiny incisions in contrast to the long abdominal incision required in the conventional surgical procedures. Post-op recovery is less painful and much faster. Liver transplant is another option that the operating surgeon may consider if the patient is not fit for a liver resection. In this option, the cancerous liver is removed and replaced with a healthy, donated liver.

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