Intraprocedural MRI-based dosimetry during transarterial radioembolization of liver tumours with holmium-166 microspheres (EMERITUS-1): a phase I trial towards adaptive, image-controlled treatment delivery

Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2022 Nov;49(13):4705-4715. doi: 10.1007/s00259-022-05902-w. Epub 2022 Jul 13.


Purpose: Transarterial radioembolization (TARE) is a treatment for liver tumours based on injection of radioactive microspheres in the hepatic arterial system. It is crucial to achieve a maximum tumour dose for an optimal treatment response, while minimizing healthy liver dose to prevent toxicity. There is, however, no intraprocedural feedback on the dose distribution, as nuclear imaging can only be performed after treatment. As holmium-166 (166Ho) microspheres can be quantified with MRI, we investigate the feasibility and safety of performing 166Ho TARE within an MRI scanner and explore the potential of intraprocedural MRI-based dosimetry.

Methods: Six patients were treated with 166Ho TARE in a hybrid operating room. Per injection position, a microcatheter was placed under angiography guidance, after which patients were transported to an adjacent 3-T MRI system. After MRI confirmation of unchanged catheter location, 166Ho microspheres were injected in four fractions, consisting of 10%, 30%, 30% and 30% of the planned activity, alternated with holmium-sensitive MRI acquisition to assess the microsphere distribution. After the procedures, MRI-based dose maps were calculated from each intraprocedural image series using a dedicated dosimetry software package for 166Ho TARE.

Results: Administration of 166Ho microspheres within the MRI scanner was feasible in 9/11 (82%) injection positions. Intraprocedural holmium-sensitive MRI allowed for tumour dosimetry in 18/19 (95%) of treated tumours. Two CTCAE grade 3-4 toxicities were observed, and no adverse events were attributed to treatment in the MRI. Towards the last fraction, 4/18 tumours exhibited signs of saturation, while in 14/18 tumours, the microsphere uptake patterns did not deviate from the linear trend.

Conclusion: This study demonstrated feasibility and preliminary safety of a first in-human application of TARE within a clinical MRI system. Intraprocedural MRI-based dosimetry enabled dynamic insight in the microsphere distribution during TARE. This proof of concept yields unique possibilities to better understand microsphere distribution in vivo and to potentially optimize treatment efficacy through treatment personalization.

Registration:, identifier NCT04269499, registered on February 13, 2020 (retrospectively registered).

Keywords: Dosimetry; Holmium; Image-guided; Personalization; SIRT; TARE.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Embolization, Therapeutic* / adverse effects
  • Embolization, Therapeutic* / methods
  • Holmium / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Microspheres
  • Yttrium Radioisotopes


  • Holmium
  • Holmium-166
  • Yttrium Radioisotopes

Associated data