Microscopic beads help patients with liver cancer live longer

Carle physicians can help people with liver cancer in a different way through a procedure that slows cancer’s progression.

Yttrium-90 (Y90) radioembolization allows physicians to deliver radiation to liver tumors from inside a person’s arteries while allowing the liver to continue normal function.

“Y90 radioembolization is for people with cancers that originated in the liver, or certain cancers that have spread to the liver,” said Steve Hong, MD, a fellowship-trained interventional radiologist at Carle.
Using detailed x-ray images, these specially trained physicians guide tiny instruments through the arteries without open surgery.

“Y90 is attached to microscopic beads which are injected into arteries that feed the liver cancers. The radiation kills cancer cells, shrinking the tumor. This procedure delivers radiation to a very specific area attacking cancer and allowing healthy tissue to continue functioning,” Dr. Hong explained.
Fellowship-trained interventional radiologists must perform the procedure and Carle is the only hospital in east central Illinois performing Y90 radioembolization offering the treatment since 2012. “It takes meticulous planning and preparation that makes a real difference for patients,” Dr. Hong said.

Traditional treatment options for patients with liver cancer include surgery, cryotherapy, radiofrequency ablation, external beam radiation or chemotherapy – all offered at Carle Cancer Center. The Y90 procedure offers a minimally invasive option with few side effects for those who have cancer in their liver.

While not a cancer cure, Y90 radioembolization can give people a longer life and for those with cancer that originated from their liver, this therapy may provide the time needed to receive a liver transplant. Hong added, “Y90 radioembolization helped prolong my father’s life, and that is why I’m committed to helping as many people as we can here at Carle with this advanced treatment.”

People with liver cancer should talk to their oncologist about the Y90 radioembolization procedure to see if they are a candidate for treatment.