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Update on yttrium-90-based radio-embolization for treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma


  • R. W. M. Kan MBBS; S. H. Y. Tsang FRCS; R. T. P. Poon MS, PhD; T. T. Cheung FRCS.

Dr Tan To Cheung, Department of Surgery, The University of Hong Kong, 102 Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China. Email:


Background:  Catheter-based intra-arterial therapies provided effective tumour control for unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma without distant metastasis. There was a renewed interest in the advancement of yttrium-90 radio-embolization.

Method:  An extensive search on the MEDLINE databases identified seven case series and two comparative studies regarding yttrium-90 radio-embolization.

Results:  Case series on yttrium-90 radio-embolization indicated a tumour response rate that ranged from 20% to 70%, and median survival that ranged from 7.7 to 26.6 months. Two comparative studies did not demonstrate significant difference in terms of tumour response rate and survival. One of these comparative studies demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in treatment-related neutropaenia.

Conclusion:  The current use of yttrium-90 radio-embolization was mainly based on small case series. Yttrium-90 radio-embolization seemed equivalent to conventional chemo-embolization in terms of tumour response rate and survival benefit. Emerging evidence suggested that yttrium-90 radio-embolization may have a more favourable side effects profile, in particular in reducing the chance of neutropaenia. Cost and logistics arrangement were two important considerations in generalizing the application of yttrium-90 radio-embolization.