Penn Researchers Find Chemoembolization Effective For Liver Tumors

oing systemic chemotherapy.

Chemoembolization is performed while the patient is under conscious sedation, and is administered by an interventional radiologist. The procedure involves making a small needle puncture in the patient's groin and inserting a catheter, or tiny tube, into the liver's hepatic artery. Using a moving X-Ray, the arteries to the liver are identified and three chemotherapy drugs are delivered directly to the hepatic artery leading to the tumor -- thus sparing healthier liver tissue. The hepatic artery is then blocked off, or embolized, with a mixture of oil and tiny particles. This technique deprives the tumor of fortifying oxygen and nutrients, while saturating the tumor with high doses of medication. Chemoembolization is effective without damaging the liver because the hepatic artery is central to the tumor's survival, however it provides only twenty-five percent (25%) of the liver's blood supply. The liver is unique in that it has two blood supplies -- a hepatic artery as well as a large portal vein that furnishes ample blood flow on its own.

The chemoembolization procedure is approximately three hours in length, and involves an overnight hospital stay. It is performed repeatedly on a monthly basis, with an average treatment regimen of approximately three sessions.

"With chemoembolization we can offer a less taxing and effective treatment for liver cancer," said Dr. Soulen. "Although not curative, it can extend and preserve a more normal life for the patient by minimizing the cancer and its effects."


Contact: Sue Montgomery
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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