MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The World Health Organization reports that liver cancer is the third most common cancer in the world, causing approximately 700,000 deaths each year. Like many cancers, it is commonly treated with radiation, but the results are often less than ideal. Now, interventional radiologists at WVU Healthcare are treating liver cancer with much better results.

Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT) is a targeted treatment for inoperable liver tumors. It’s much more effective than standard treatments because it delivers the radiation directly to the tumors, leaving healthy tissue unaffected. It can only be performed by doctors who specialize in interventional radiology, a rapidly growing field of medicine aimed at using minimally invasive techniques. Patients benefit from less pain, less risk and faster recovery.

“There are millions of little microspheres that go right into the tumor, and they’re embedded there. They give off the radiation only a short distance – a couple of millimeters,” Patricia Stoltzfus, M.D., WVU interventional radiologist, said. “That will spare the normal tissue and treat the tumor itself.”

SIRT is a minimally invasive therapy. A catheter is inserted into the artery that supplies blood to the liver. Once the catheter is in place, tiny radioactive microspheres are released, delivering radiation directly to liver tumors using the tumors’ own blood supply. SIRT can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy, but it is also a stand-alone treatment.

“Chemotherapy often has side effects that patients can’t tolerate, and there are very few side effects with this therapy,” Dr. Stoltzfus said. “Used in addition to chemotherapy, SIRT shrinks the tumor more and gives the patient a longer and better quality of life.”

For more information: Angela Jones, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
ls/asj: 11-08-11