Surgery is often not an option for liver cancer, and chemotherapy can sometimes be ineffective. Minimally invasive interventional oncology treatments are a viable option for many cases of liver cancer, as well as kidney and lung cancer. These treatments can preserve the affected organ by delivering targeted treatments that can attack the cancer from within. Interventional oncology is often considered in cases where traditional surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy have failed or are not considered safe.
Chemoembolization is a minimally invasive treatment for liver cancer. Using X-ray guidance, a small catheter is advanced into the blood vessels that are supplying the cancer; then, interventional radiologists deliver a highly concentrated dose of cancer-killing chemotherapy drugs directly to the tumor and embolize (block) the vessel with tiny particles. Chemoembolization has proven an effective treatment for both primary liver cancer (tumors that originate in the liver) and metastatic cancer (tumors that have spread to the liver from other cancer sites).
Like chemoembolization, interventional radiologists use radioembolization to deliver targeted treatments directly to liver tumors. The difference is that radioembolization treats tumors with radiation instead of chemotherapy drugs. Radioactive microspheres block the blood supply to the tumor while delivering targeted radiation directly to the tumor.
Microwave ablation (MWA) is a minimally invasive procedure used to kill cancerous tissue by heating it. Under CT or ultrasound guidance, interventional radiologists use MWA to advance a microwave antenna directly into a tumor. The microwave energy causes rapid rotation and agitation of water molecules to create friction and heat, resulting in tumor cell death. MWA offers advantages over other thermoablative devices, including the ability to create a larger ablation zone in a shorter period of time. MWA can be used to treat primary and metastatic liver cancers, kidney and adrenal tumors, and primary and secondary lung malignancies. It is helpful in relieving symptoms and extending survival, and has proven an effective tool when used in conjunction with other cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy, transarterial chemotherapy (TACE), radioembolization and surgical resection.
Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure that kills tumor cells using heat from radiofrequency energy. An interventional radiologist advances an ablation needle through a tiny access site. Using CT or ultrasound guidance, the physician advances the needle to the tumor, using heat from radiofrequency energy to ultimately “cook” the tumor and destroy the cancer cells.
Cryoablation is a minimally invasive procedure that kills cancerous tissue by freezing it. Under CT or ultrasound guidance, interventional radiologists insert a cryoprobe (thin needle) directly into the tumor. The needle is then filled with gas to rapidly freeze the tissue. Afterward, the tissue is allowed to thaw. This freezing and thawing cycle is repeated several times to ensure a frozen area beyond the tumor’s edges and, subsequently, death of the entire tumor.