For over 15 years, Dr. Laurie Cuttino has served as a radiation oncologist with the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in Richmond, Virginia. A nationally recognized expert in accelerated partial breast irradiation, Dr. Laurie Cuttino also has experience with a range of other treatment modalities, including selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT).
Used to control liver cancers in patients who cannot be treated surgically, SIRT is a form of radiotherapy that uses a microcatheter to deliver radiation directly into the hepatic artery, which provides 20 percent of the liver’s blood supply. Although it only delivers one-fifth of all the blood the liver needs, the hepatic artery provides 80 percent of the blood that cancer involving the liver uses to survive and grow. By taking advantage of this difference in blood supplies, SIRT delivers millions of radioactive microspheres into the tumor while limiting the harmful effects of the radiation on healthy liver cells.
Typically, SIRT is provided in an outpatient setting, and the treatment may take place in one or two sessions depending on the individual patient’s needs. If a patient does require two sessions, the treatments will usually be performed 30 days apart. In some cases, SIRT is combined with chemotherapy, but it is often reserved for patients who have had minimal success with chemo or have had difficulty tolerating the treatment.
Common side effects of SIRT include flu-like systems such as fever, nausea, and fatigue that may last anywhere from a few days up to a week after treatment. Most patients are able to return to their normal activities within one to three days. Although SIRT research and clinical trials are still ongoing, the treatment has been shown to reduce tumor size and tumor activity in a large percentage of patients.