Radioembolization of hepatocellular carcinoma

Curr Drug Discov Technol. 2010 Dec;7(4):247-52. doi: 10.2174/157016310793360701.


In this review paper, available data on radioembolization of unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) using commercially available radiopharmaceuticals, respectively (131)I-Lipiodol, Therasphere (glass-microspheres) and SIRspheres (resin-microspheres) are reviewed. In the palliative setting, (131)I-Lipiodol was shown to yield response rates of 17-92% which in patients with portal vein thrombosis (PVT) translate into a survival benefit as evidenced by a phase III randomized trial. Furthermore, in terms of efficacy, (131)I-Lipiodol is as efficacious as trans-arterial chemoembolization (TACE) but far better tolerated. In the adjuvant setting, improved recurrence-free and overall survival when compared to surgery alone have been reported but these results warrant confirmation by randomized prospective trials. Similar to (131)I-Lipiodol, when administered in a palliative setting, radioembolization using (90)Y microspheres was proven effective for selected cases of non-resectable HCC and well tolerated. Available data suggest that Therasphere treatment outperforms TACE both in terms of response as in terms of event-free survival in unresectable HCC. However, this finding needs confirmation by randomized prospective trials. Therasphere treatment was also shown to limit progression of HCC allowing potential candidates for orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) more time to wait for donor organs as well as to downstage the HCC disease to such an extent that patients that were initially not, as yet become eligible for OLT with a gain in survival. Finally, Therasphere was shown to be safe and efficacious in HCC patients presenting with PVT, reason for which approval was granted for this indication by the FDA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / radiotherapy*
  • Chemoembolization, Therapeutic
  • Embolization, Therapeutic / adverse effects
  • Embolization, Therapeutic / methods*
  • Ethiodized Oil / administration & dosage
  • Ethiodized Oil / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Microspheres
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / administration & dosage
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / adverse effects
  • Survival
  • Yttrium Radioisotopes / administration & dosage
  • Yttrium Radioisotopes / adverse effects


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Yttrium Radioisotopes
  • Ethiodized Oil