Cancer Care

How can Interventional Radiologists Help Cancer Patients?

For many cancer patients, interventional radiology is a key component of their diagnostic and treatment experience. From confirmation of an initial diagnosis to late-stage pain relief, radiological procedures are common throughout all phases of cancer care.

Performing most interventional radiology procedures requires only a small incision – the size of a pinhole. This reduces the risk of complications and allows for faster healing time. Most of the procedures are completed in a single day and a majority of are discharged on the same day as the procedure.

At MedStar Harbor, our medical and surgical oncologists and interventional radiologists are collaborating about the use of image-guided technology to treat cancer.

What is Tumor Ablation?

In this localized treatment, tumor tissue is killed with either heat or extreme cold. Patients are usually discharged home the same day or next day after the procedure and return to their baseline status days after the procedure.

This procedure may be used to treat tumors or alleviate symptoms related to primary liver cancer, metastatic liver cancer, lung cancer, and kidney cancer.

Liver Cancer Treatment Options

The Interventional Oncology program at MedStar Harbor is one of the few in the region to offer patients a liver cancer treatment called Y-90 radioembolization, an alternative to surgery. The outpatient procedure combines the use of radiation therapy with embolization, a process in which blood vessels are blocked to prevent blood flow. During the procedure, a catheter is inserted through a small incision in the femoral or radial artery until it reaches the hepatic artery, one of two blood vessels feeding the liver.

Once the catheter is in place, millions of microscopic beads containing the radioactive isotope Yttrium-90 are released. The microspheres lodge in the smaller vessels that directly feed the tumor, stopping blood flow and emitting radiation to kill the tumor cells. The painless procedure is usually completed within an hour and the side effects are mostly limited to fatigue and loss of appetite.

"The liver is an ideal organ for this type of treatment, since the hepatic artery is the one that most commonly supplies blood to the cancerous tumors," vascular and interventional radiologist, Adnaan Moin, MD, said. "While the procedure doesn't cure the cancer, it can help extend the lives of patients with inoperable tumors and improve their quality of life."

Dr. Moin adds that in some cases, Y-90 radioembolization can reduce the size of a tumor enough that it can be resected or for the patient to be evaluated for a liver transplant.

What is Chemoembolization?

In chemoembolization, a catheter is placed into the liver, and chemotherapy drugs are injected directly into the liver arteries. This technique delivers chemotherapy at much higher doses than traditional treatment and in a way that spares the rest of the body from chemotherapy side effects.

Chemoembolization is not a curative treatment. It is designed to increase the patient’s life expectancy and improve cancer-related symptoms. Chemoembolization may be a treatment option for patients with the following cancers:

  • Primary liver cancers including hepatocellular carcinoma and chloangicarcinoma
  • Secondary cancers:
    • Metastatic Colon
    • Neuroendocrine
    • Pancreatic
    • Breast
    • Pancreas
    • Kidney

For more information or to speak with an Interventional Radiology specialist, please call