Hepatic arterial 90Yttrium glass microspheres (Therasphere) for unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma: Interim safety and survival data on 65 patients


  • Brian I. Carr

    Corresponding author
    1. Liver Cancer Center, Starzl Transplantation Institute, Pittsburgh, PA
    • Liver Cancer Center, Starzl Transplantation Institute, E1552 Biomedical Science Tower, 200 Lothrop Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
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Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) generally arises in a cirrhotic liver and, in most cases, is multifocal and bilobar. Although trans-hepatic artery chemoembolization (TACE) can be highly affective in shrinking tumors, it is limited by virtue of the damage that it can cause to the liver that is already damaged by chronic disease. A high priority in HCC research, after primary prevention and early detection, is to find new treatment modalities that are both effective and non-toxic to the underlying cirrhotic liver. A cohort of 65 patients with biopsy-proven unresectable HCC have been treated with hepatic arterial 90Yttrium microspheres (Therasphere), and the interim results are reported here. Only 1 cycle of Therasphere treatment ever was performed on 46 patients, 17 patients had 2 cycles, and 2 patients had 3 cycles of therapy. The median dose delivered was 134 Gy, typically as either 5 or 10 GBq (2–4 million microspheres). Clinical toxicities include 9 episodes of abdominal pain and 2 episodes of acute cholecystitis, requiring cholecystectomy. A main lab toxicity was elevated bilirubin which increased by more than 200 % in 25 patients (30.5 %) during 6 months of therapy, although 18 of these patients had only transient elevation. A prominent finding was prolonged and profound (> 70%) lymphopenia in more than 75% of the patients, but without clinical significance. Forty-two patients (64.6%) had a substantial decrease in tumor vascularity in response to therapy, and 25 patients (38.4%) had a partial response, by computed tomography scan. Median survival for Okuda stage I patients (n = 42) was 649 days (historical comparison 244) and for Okuda stage II patients (n = 23) was 302 days (historical comparison 64 days). All patients were followed after therapy for a minimum of 6 months. There were 42 deaths, 21 due to liver failure, 6 from HCC progression, and 3 from metastases. Therasphere appears to be a relatively safe and effective therapy for advanced-stage unresectable HCC. (Liver Transpl 2004;10:S107–S110.)