Radioembolization of liver tumors with yttrium-90 microspheres

Semin Nucl Med. 2010 Mar;40(2):105-21. doi: 10.1053/j.semnuclmed.2009.11.001.


Radioembolization (RE), also termed selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT), has been gradually introduced to the clinical arsenal of cytoreductive modalities in recent years. There is growing evidence for efficiency in liver tumors of various entities, with the most prominent ones being hepatocellular carcinoma, colorectal cancer, and neuroendocrine tumors. Hepatic metastases of numerous other tumor entities including breast cancer, cholangiocarcinoma, and pancreatic cancer are treatment-sensitive, even when being refractory to other treatment modalities such as bland-embolization, regional, or systemic chemotherapy. The antitumor effect of SIRT is related to radiation rather than embolization, with extraordinary high local radiation doses obtained selectively at the site of viable tumor and little affection of the surrounding normal liver tissue. Morphologic changes after RE may pose difficulties for interpretation in conventional restaging with regard to tumor viability and true response to treatment. Therefore, functional imaging, that is, metabolic imaging with (18)F fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (computed tomography) in the majority of treated tumors, is regarded the gold standard in this respect and should be included for pre- and post-SIRT assessment. To prevent serious toxicity to be associated with the potent antitumor efficacy, meticulous pretreatment evaluation is of particular importance. Improvements in predicting dosimetry will help optimize treatment and patient selection. Nuclear medicine procedures are essential for planning, performing, and monitoring of RE. However, the interdisciplinary aspect of patient management has to be emphasized for this particular treatment form. As SIRT is moving forward from the salvage setting indication to the use in earlier stages of hepatic tumor disease and with the advent of new treatment protocols and targeted therapies, embedding SIRT into a multidisciplinary approach will become even more important. This article focuses on procedural and technical aspects for selection, preparation, and performance of treatment as well as post-therapeutic monitoring and response assessment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Microspheres*
  • Radiotherapy / methods*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted
  • Yttrium / therapeutic use*


  • Yttrium