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Tiny Chemo Beads Boost Liver Cancer Outcomes
Date:1/20/2009

They are soaked with drugs to target only the tumor, researchers explain

TUESDAY, Jan. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A minimally invasive therapy that uses beads soaked with anti-cancer agents has been successful at halting liver tumors, according to new studies.

Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) attacks liver tumors on two fronts. Microspheres, or beads, combined with cancer-killing chemotherapeutic agents are delivered to the blood vessel feeding the tumor. While the chemo attacks the cancer, the microspheres get stuck in the vessels and choke off the blood supply to the tumor -- a process called embolization.

While surgically removing a tumor is the most effective way to treat one, this is not an option for most liver cancer patients. In two out of three instances, the size or location of the liver cancer prevents surgery, or the tumor has grown into the blood vessels. Typically, only a quarter of people with liver cancer survive two years after diagnosis.

TACE holds promise, because the tumor, rather than the entire body, receives the chemotherapy directly. It is used to slow, not cure, the disease, but successful improvements in the beads and the procedure were expected to be presented in three separate trials this week at the annual International Symposium on Endovascular Therapy (ISET) in Hollywood, Fla.

In the first study, done at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Tampa, Fla., 10 of 11 liver cancer patients given beads that released the chemo drug doxorubicin were alive two years after the procedure. Ten of the 13 people patients who had colorectal cancer that spread to the liver and were given the same treatment also were alive after two years.

The "LC Beads," as they were called, also did not cause systemic side effects.

"There is definitely a chance of cancer cure with this procedure beyond just palliation," Dr. Glenn Stambo, vascular and interventional
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