Treating Liver Cancers with Selective Internal Radiation Therapy

Selective Internal Radiation Therapy pic
Selective Internal Radiation Therapy
Image: sirtex.com

Honored by numerous publications for her work, Dr. Laurie Cuttino serves as an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia. She is also affiliated with VCU Massey Cancer Center and Henrico Doctors’ Hospital. Among the methods Dr. Laurie Cuttino employs to treat liver cancers is using selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) with SIR-Spheres®.

SIRT is a form of internal radiotherapy used to treat liver cancers when surgical removal of the cancer (or tumor) is not an option. With the use of a catheter, millions of microspheres, each smaller than the width of a hair, are delivered to the hepatic artery, the main blood vessel providing blood to the liver.

The radioactive microspheres , known as SIR-Spheres®, become lodged in the small blood vessels surrounding the tumor, reducing the blood supply and preventing the tumor from receiving the nutrients that enables it to grow. The radiation from the microspheres destroys the vessels and the tumor. As the radiation travels only a short distance, there is minimal damage to nearby tissue. Also known as radioembolization, it is not a permanent cure for the majority of patients, but can lengthen the period of survival.

SIRT – Localized Internal Radiation Approach to Treating Liver Cancer

Selective Internal Radiation Therapy pic
Selective Internal Radiation Therapy
Image: cirse.org

Dr. Laurie Cuttino earned her MD at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). For the past 15 years, Dr. Laurie Cuttino has served as associate professor of radiation oncology at her alma mater. She also works with Henrico Doctors’ Hospital, which offers leading-edge treatments such as selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT).

SIRT is a method of employing radiotherapy on cancers of the liver that are not removable through traditional surgery. This form of internal radiotherapy involves the insertion of a catheter, or tiny tube, within the hepatic artery, which is the main supplier of blood to the liver. The catheter distributes microspheres (also known as SIR-spheres), which are minute beads smaller in diameter than a human hair.

The radioactive substance yttrium 90 contained within the microspheres delivers precisely calibrated radiation to the tumor. This impacts the blood supply that the tumors require to survive and results in radioembolization. In addition, the tumor DNA is damaged while leaving the healthy tissue virtually intact. This is because the microbeads emit radiation only a few millimeters from their contained location within the tumor area.