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Belvoir Hospital offers cutting-edge liver cancer treatment

For patients battling cancer, quality of life is most often achieved through treatment options. At Belvoir Hospital, a new localized option – the first of its kind for any military hospital on the East Coast – is giving patients with liver tumors another choice to enhance their quality of life. (Department of Defense photo by Reese Brown) For patients battling cancer, quality of life is most often achieved through treatment options. At Belvoir Hospital, a new localized option – the first of its kind for any military hospital on the East Coast – is giving patients with liver tumors another choice to enhance their quality of life. (Department of Defense photo by Reese Brown)

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FORT BELVOIR, Va. — For patients battling cancer, quality of life is most often achieved through treatment options. At Belvoir Hospital, a new localized option – the first of its kind for any military hospital on the East Coast – is giving patients with liver tumors another choice to enhance their quality of life.

The targeted treatment delivers millions of the tiny beads to fight the tumor's growth and is injected directly into the liver artery. The process to insert the beads takes about 30 minutes and is minimally invasive. Following the insertion, patients are typically discharged within 4 to 6 hours. Side effects from the treatment can include flu-like symptoms in some patients, said Army Lt. Col. Llewellyn Lee, chief of Radiology at Belvoir Hospital. 

Called SIR-Spheres Y-90 resin microspheres, the microscopic resin beads contain the radioactive isotope Yttrium-90 (Y-90) and emit radiation to kill cancer cells.

Due to their small size – about 1/3 the width of a human hair – they travel easily with the bloodstream directly to the liver tumors. The microspheres become lodged inside the microvasculature that supplies the tumor and kills the cancer cells through radiation, said Lee. 

“This technology allows us to administer high doses of radiation directly to liver tumors without affecting other organs,” he said. 

The localized therapy won't impact other parts of the body and works to control the progression of the disease. "This treatment is for patients who have disease or tumors in their livers and specifically tumors that have metastasized, or grown out from colon cancer,” said Lee, who noted because the liver has a unique blood supply, doctors can target the tumors and preserve more healthy tissue. 

While the treatment improves quality of life, it isn’t curative. 

“This procedure is palliative,” said Army Lt. Col. Shahnin Nassirkani, a Nuclear Medicine Fellow at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on hand to watch the procedure at Belvoir Hospital. “But the beads can cause some tumors to shrink, extending patients’ lives and the quality of them, with research showing improvements in patients are statistically significant.” 

Using only chemotherapy, analysts found that liver tumors progressed within about 14 to 15 months. Adding Y90, bumped that time up to around 22 months. 

“This treatment is another tool for us to give patients diagnosed with liver cancer something invaluable – time,” said Lee. “I’m thrilled to offer it at Belvoir Hospital to our patients who can benefit from it.” 

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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