Treatment of unresectable primary and metastatic liver cancer with yttrium-90 microspheres (TheraSphere): assessment of hepatic arterial embolization

Cardiovasc Intervent Radiol. Jul-Aug 2006;29(4):522-9. doi: 10.1007/s00270-005-0171-4.


In Canada and Europe, yttrium-90 microspheres (TheraSphere); MDS Nordion, Ottawa, Canada) are a primary treatment option for primary and secondary hepatic malignancies. We present data from 30 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and metastatic liver disease treated with TheraSphere from a single academic institution to evaluate the angiographically evident embolization that follows treatment. Seven interventional radiologists from one treatment center compared pretreatment and posttreatment angiograms. The reviewers were blinded to the timing of the studies. The incidence of postembolization syndrome (PES) was determined as well as objective tumor response rates by the World Health Organization (WHO), Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST), and European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) criteria. There were 420 independent angiographic observations that were assessed using the chi-squared statistic. The pretreatment and posttreatment angiograms could not be correctly identified on average more than 43% of the time (p = 0.0004). The postprocedure arterial patency rate was 100%. The objective tumor response rates for all patients were 24%, 31%, and 72% for WHO, RECIST, and EASL criteria, respectively. All of the patients tolerated the procedure without complications and were treated on an outpatient basis, and four patients had evidence of PES. This treatment method does not result in macroscopic embolization of the hepatic arteries, thereby maintaining hepatic tissue perfusion. These data support the principle that the favorable response rates reported with TheraSphere are likely due to radiation and microscopic embolization rather than flow-related macroscopic embolization and ischemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Angiography
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / radiotherapy*
  • Embolism
  • Female
  • Hepatic Artery / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Liver Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Male
  • Melanoma / radiotherapy
  • Microspheres
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Yttrium / therapeutic use*


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Yttrium