New Treatment Offers Hope to Patients Diagnosed with Liver Cancer

Published On 03/31/2011

Methodist University Hospital is the only hospital in Tennessee to offer inoperable liver cancer patients a new innovative treatment to help them fight their disease. The minimally invasive procedure uses radioactive microspheres to deliver radiation straight to the tumor inside the liver.

“TheraSphere® using radioactive isotope Y-90 microspheres gives doctors the ability to precisely target the tumor inside the liver, sparing healthy tissue and greatly reducing negative side effects,” explained David Fang, M.D., an interventional radiologist with Methodist University Hospital. “This new protocol makes Methodist the premier center in Tennessee and one of only a handful of centers in the Southeast to offer a full spectrum of interventional oncology cancer care.”

James Wilson of Dresden, Tenn., was diagnosed with primary liver cancer in December 2010. He is glad TheraSphere® was an option for him. “I really liked that the procedure was outpatient, and I didn’t have to stay in the hospital, plus I had minimal side effects. Other than being tired, I didn’t have any pain or sickness.”

Tiny microsphere beads that are smaller than a fine grain of sand are inserted through a catheter that is placed into the groin through a small incision. The catheter is thread through the blood vessels to the artery supplying blood to the tumor. The physician infuses the microspheres through the catheter which flow into the artery supplying blood to the tumor. The radioactive microspheres then work to destroy the tumor. Patients are awake during the treatment and go home several hours later.

“It is a great feeling to be able to offer patients who are otherwise out of options a way to extend their life,” said Dr. Fang.

About 18,000 cases of primary liver cancer are diagnosed each year. Currently, inoperable liver cancer patients have the option of local regional treatment with ablation or chemoembolization. Chemotherapy and external radiation are also options; however, they expose the tumor, as well as healthy tissue and organs, to powerful chemo drugs and radiation which result in severe side effects including nausea, vomiting, fatigue, susceptibility to infections, and hair loss.

“With the addition of the leading-edge technology of TheraSphere®, Methodist now provides a full complement of comprehensive interventional oncology tools to treat cancer patients,” said Dr. Fang. “For me, the most gratifying part of being able to offer this minimally invasive treatment is the potential impact it has on patient survival.”

Mr. Wilson is looking forward to having his liver transplant and putting his illness behind him. He expects the TheraSphere® treatment to move him up on the transplant list, which means he will be able to get his liver transplant sooner.

For more information about TheraSphere®, visit