First in State: Froedtert & the Medical College
Offer New Liver Cancer Therapy
The Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center recently became the only facility in Wisconsin to offer an innovative new treatment for inoperable liver cancer. The treatment is called TheraSphere®. According to William S. Rilling, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin interventional radiologist, the results are as good as standard therapy with decreased recovery time.
TheraSphere® consists of millions of microscopic glass beads, each containing a small amount of radioactivity. A physician uses a catheter to strategically place the beads in the specific blood supply of the liver tumor, which carries the beads directly into the tumor. Radiation from the beads travels less than half an inch through the body. That means the radiation dose is restricted as much as possible to the tumor. Healthy tissues in the liver and surrounding organs are largely spared from exposure.
For patients, the biggest difference is in potential for side effects. The standard treatment—known as chemoembolization — delivers anti-cancer drugs directly to the cancer site and blocks the blood supply to the tumor. This approach is effective, but it normally requires a 7-14 day recovery. With TheraSphere®, recovery takes just a few days and patients experience only mild, flu-like symptoms.
According to Dr. Rilling, the few patients who have undergone chemoembolization and TheraSphere® say the new therapy is the hands-down winner.
Although long-term data is not yet available, TheraSphere® appears to be just as effective as chemoembolization.
This new therapy is approved for cancers that originate in the liver, but Froedtert & the Medical College will soon take part in national clinical trials to test its effectiveness for cancers that spread to the liver from other parts of the body. TheraSphere® is available in fewer than a dozen hospitals nationwide. Dr. Rilling says Froedtert & the Medical College were selected as a treatment site because of physician expertise in image-guided tumor therapy and the strength of its hepatology, surgical oncology and transplant programs. Only hospitals with a broadly interdisciplinary cancer program and a strong radiation safety infrastructure are capable of offering this therapy.