Selective internal radiation therapy for nonresectable hepatocellular carcinoma with intraarterial infusion of 90yttrium microspheres

Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1998 Feb 1;40(3):583-92. doi: 10.1016/s0360-3016(97)00818-3.


Purpose: To evaluate the efficacy of intraarterial 90yttrium (90Y) microspheres in nonresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Methods and materials: Patients with nonresectable HCC, but without extrahepatic disease, who also had lung shunting < 15% and tumor-to-normal ratio > or =2, as determined by simulation using (99m)technetium macroaggregated albumin, were entered into the study. The radiation dose delivered to the lungs, tumor, and normal liver was estimated by a partition model. 90Y microspheres were infused into the hepatic artery at the time of hepatic angiography or through an implanted arterial portacatheter under fluoroscopy. Repeated treatments were given for residual or recurrent tumor. Response to treatment was monitored by serum alpha-fetoprotein or ferritin levels, together with serial computed tomography.

Results: Seventy-one patients, including 20 patients with postoperative recurrence, were initially treated with an activity of 0.8 to 5.0 Giga-Becquerel (GBq) (21.6-135.1 mCi) (median 3.0 GBq or 81.1 mCi) of 90Y microspheres. There was a 50% reduction in tumor volume in 19 (26.7%) patients after the first treatment. However, the overall objective response in terms of changes in alpha-fetoprotein levels was 89% [partial response (PR) 67%, complete response (CR) 22%] among the 46 patients with raised pretreatment levels. The serum ferritin level in the other 25 patients dropped by 34 to 99% after treatment. Treatment was repeated in 15 patients. The maximum number of treatments was 5 and the maximum total activity was 13.0 GBq (351.4 mCi), given in 3 treatments. The estimated radiation doses to the nontumorous liver ranged from 25 to 136 Gy (median 52 Gy) in the first treatment and the highest total radiation dose was estimated to be 324 Gy. For the tumors, the estimated radiation doses ranged from 83 to 748 Gy (median 225 Gy) in the initial treatment and the highest cumulative dose reached was 1580 Gy. The residual tumors were resected in 4 patients. Two of these had complete histological remission, but only occasional viable tumor cells were found in the necrotic centers of the tumors resected from the other 2 patients. The median survival of the 71 patients was 9.4 months (range 1.8 to 46.4 months). Treatment was well tolerated and there was no bone-marrow toxicity, or clinical evidence of radiation hepatitis or pneumonitis.

Conclusions: Selective internal radiation therapy using 90Y microspheres is effective for selected cases of nonresectable HCC and is well tolerated. The objective response rate in terms of drop in tumor marker levels is higher than that based on reduction in tumor volume shown by computed tomography. The nontumorous liver appears more tolerant to internal radiation than external beam radiation. Selective internal radiation treatment may convert nonresectable tumors to resectable ones.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / blood
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / blood supply
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / radiotherapy*
  • Cause of Death
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation
  • Female
  • Hepatic Artery
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intra-Arterial
  • Liver Neoplasms / blood
  • Liver Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Male
  • Microspheres
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / blood
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / blood supply
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / radiotherapy*
  • Neoplasm, Residual
  • Survival Analysis
  • Yttrium Radioisotopes / administration & dosage
  • Yttrium Radioisotopes / therapeutic use*
  • alpha-Fetoproteins / analysis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Yttrium Radioisotopes
  • alpha-Fetoproteins