Radiation Therapy for Liver Cancer

Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation beams that penetrate deep into the body to safely and effectively treat cancer and other diseases. The goal of radiation therapy is to kill cancer cells or shrink or control the growth of a tumor. Radiation can also be used to relieve symptoms, such as pain caused by the cancer.

Radiation works by damaging cancer cells so that they cannot reproduce and eventually die. When cancer cells die, the body removes them naturally over time. Your body’s healthy cells are also sensitive to radiation. However, normal cells can repair radiation damage, while cancer cells cannot.
Radiation therapy for liver tumors has some challenges. These include:

  • Healthy liver tissue does not have a high tolerance for radiation. Healthy cells need protection from radiation.
  • Liver tumors move when you breathe during radiation treatments.
  • Liver tumors may look very similar to the healthy tissue around them.

Comprehensive radiation treatment of liver tumors needs to take all these challenges into account.  

At the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, radiation treatmentfor liver cancer uses the most advanced techniques to protect healthy liver tissue while killing cancer cells. Some of the techniques that help us control cancer include:

We use the Varian linear accelerator and Novalis TX system with brainLAB technology. This is the most advanced radiation technology available. The beam of radiation is shaped to match your tumor, and built-in scanning technology allows your radiation oncologist to take high-resolution pictures of the tumor immediately before each treatment session. This helps us deliver radiation directly to cancer cells, avoiding healthy tissue as much as possible.

In a world-wide unique installation, the Novalis TX unit is combined with a 16-slice in-room big-bore Philips Brilliance CT scanner. This powerful combination of technologies allows the radiation oncologist to acquire high-resolution imaging of the liver tumor right before the radiation therapy is delivered (image-guided radiation therapy). It also allow us the ability to track changes in breathing-related liver tumor movement on a day to day basis, This way we can deliver cancer killing  radiation doses, while allowing health tissue to be spared.