There is a bit of good news in the battle against cancer.
Metastatic liver cancer is especially difficult to treat, and the prognosis is often quite poor. But, researchers from Mayo Clinic Jacksonville hope to change that outlook.
"Most of these patients don't have other effective treatment options, because surgery is not possible if there are multiple tumors in their liver," says the study's lead investigator, Laura Vallow, M.D. "But with this radiotherapy, no new tumors developed in patients who responded and we find this to be very encouraging."
Vallow and her team are exploring the use of tiny radioactive spheres to treat patients with multiple tumors of the liver. Though similar in theory to the treatment of prostate cancer, the scale is vastly different. The radioactive seeds used to treat prostate cancer are about the size of a grain of rice. The spheres used in this new therapy are each about one-third the diameter of a human hair.
The therapy targets the liver by directly injecting millions of the tiny spheres into the liver's blood supply, via the hepatic artery. Once injected, the spheres deliver radiation to the tumors for around eleven days.
The initial results, though based on small patient numbers, are extremely encouraging. 71% of the patients responded positively to the treatment, as evidenced by a decrease in tumor size. Of even greater significance, those who responded positively also fared well at the end of the 10-month follow-up period. No new tumors were detected among the 71% with initial positive results.
"Liver function tests in the responding patients have become normal or have stabilized," says Vallow.
While additional, larger scale, studies are still needed to assess the most effective uses for this therapy, this is still very good news. The FDA approved the therapy in 2002.To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about liver cancer, including treatment options, see this from the Mayo Clinic.