Radiation therapy for liver metastases

Curr Opin Support Palliat Care. 2012 Mar;6(1):97-102. doi: 10.1097/SPC.0b013e32834de6d8.


Purpose of review: The liver is a common site of metastatic disease. Systemic therapy is most frequently the preferred therapy for patients with liver metastases, but surgical excision or tumor ablation strategies are often considered for patients with limited disease and favorable histology. Advances in radiation therapy technology made it possible to deliver potent biological doses to limited volumes of the liver with high precision in a few fractions. This method is known as stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT). Low-dose radiation therapy administered to the whole-liver radiation therapy (WLRT) is not regularly used for palliation of patients with massive liver metastases. The purpose of this review is to present an update of the most recent literature on SBRT and WLRT.

Recent findings: Recently published studies confirm the role of SBRT as a highly effective treatment for ablation of liver metastases. The toxicity related to the therapy is mild or moderate. This treatment is indicated for patients with limited burden of intrahepatic and extrahepatic disease. Low-dose WLRT is a useful treatment for symptom palliation in patients with end-stage cancer and diffuse metastatic infiltration of the liver which became refractory to systemic treatment.

Summary: SBRT and WLRT are highly efficient in the treatment of patients with liver metastases. However, prospective randomized trials in radiation therapy for liver metastases are warranted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery
  • Radiosurgery / instrumentation
  • Radiosurgery / methods*