Y-90 radioembolization offers promise for liver cancer

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Yttrium-90 (Y-90) microsphere radioembolization offers promise for treating late-stage liver cancer, according to interventional radiologists at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

The glass spheres contain a radioactive element, Y-90, which emits radiation for a limited distance so that healthy tissue around the tumor remains unaffected (2.5 mm or less than 1/16 of inch in soft tissue).

Daniel E. Wertman Jr., MD, co-director of vascular and interventional radiology and assistant professor of clinical radiology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis said more than 300 patients have been treated with Y-90 radioembolization since the program was initiated at Indiana University Hospital and the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center more than three years ago.

Y-90 microsphere radioembolization is an FDA-approved procedure first used in the U.S. in 2002. The outpatient procedure has gained favor with interventional radiologists for treating a type of cancer that is becoming more prevalent due to an increase in the cases of hepatitis, obesity and alcoholism. A catheter is inserted through an incision in the groin and threaded through the arteries until it reaches the hepatic artery, one of two blood vessels feeding the liver. When the catheter is in the proper place, millions of the microscopic beads containing Y-90 are released. The microspheres lodge in the smaller vessels that feed the tumor, stopping blood flow and emitting radiation to kill the tumor cells. Patients need not be isolated after treatment with Y-90 and usually are released about three hours after the treatment.