Interventional Radiology for Liver Cancer

While surgery to remove a liver tumor offers the best chance for a cure, surgery is not an option for more than two-thirds of patients with primary liver cancer. Ninety percent of patients with cancer that has spread to the liver cannot have surgery. Reasons for not having surgery include liver tumors that aretoo large to remove or tumors that are too close to major blood vessels or other organs. Some people have  many small tumors in the liver, making surgery too risky or difficult.

Our interventional radiologists, who are members of the Dotter Interventional Institute, can use the body’s system of blood vessels to treat the liver. Our experts inject chemotherapy drugs through a thin tube into the major vessel that delivers blood to the liver. The drug is mixed with a substance that blocks the artery, cutting off blood flow to the tumor. This means most of the chemotherapy drug is trapped near the tumor and only a small amount of the drug reaches other parts of the body. 

This type of treatment keeps the tumor from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow, and healthy tissue is protected. The block may be temporary or permanent, depending on what is used to block the blood vessel. The liver still receives blood from a vein that brings blood from the stomach and intestine to keep the healthy tissue alive.

Our interventional radiologists also use this procedure to send radioactive particles to tumors that are too large to treat with surgery. 

A third treatment is sending particles into the tumor to release chemotherapy directly inside it for days or weeks.

Interventional radiologists can also use X-rays to guide them directly to the tumor and use radiofrequency energy to kill cancer cells. This technique is called radiofrequency ablation (RFA).