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In every kind of malignant tumor, blood is delivered by means of arteries. Anticancer drugs mixed with some 'embolic' particles such as polyvinyl alcohol and gelatin powder can be injected selectively in the arteries that feed tumors. This causes clotting in those arteries, and infarcts tumors [kills tumor cells by removing their blood supply]. Additionally the anticancer drugs work on the tumor. Their work is enhanced by their not being quickly washed away by the blood circulation [which has been clotted or slowed]. Radio-opaque contrast media can also be present in the mixture, and the progress of the mixture monitored radiologically. Chemoembolization is usually done by an Interventional Radiologist.

The feeding artery is reached by advancing a catheter from the femoral or other artery. The catheter can be advanced into the artery that feeds the majority of the tumor blood supply, and the embolization material is injected, followed by the chemotherapy regimen previously decided upon, until the feeder artery no longer transports liquid. Chemoembolization causes massive shrinkage due to ischemia [loss of blood supply], and increases the local drug intensity and drug exposure to the tumor tissue.

Side Effects and Complications
are obvious ones: local trauma, artery rupture, infection, abscess, reaction to the injected materials, the side effects due to the injected materials, fever, pain, misdirected drainage of the injected material resulting in damage to other structures. It is usually painful, because some normal tissue is also infarcted, and the pain would probably be coming from some normal tissue around the periphery of the tumor.

Chemoembolization can be used to deal with almost any metastases, whether in bone, lung, liver, or other organs. It is often used for shrinking liver metastases. Chemoembolization is not curative nor ablative, but it does shrink tumors quite often, and quite well. However, some of the tumor will have an adjacent blood supply, or survive long enough to create new blood vessels, so the tumors do regrow. This is an excellent method for downsizing tumors, whether as part of neoadjuvant treatment to become operable, or as palliation for pain and symptoms, or simply for increased survival time.

Embolization or chemoembolization could be of use for unresectable lung metastases. Also, this regional therapy may offer new hope for those sarcoma patients who have lung metastases resistant to combination systemic chemotherapy, either for downgrading of tumors prior to surgical resection, or for palliation or decreasing total tumor load. Embolization or chemoembolization is not curative by itself, and additional therapy is required to eradicate residual disease.

For More Information:

Go To Chemoembolization and the Liver

Search Pubmed for Chemoembolization and Sarcoma

Search Pubmed for Chemoembolization and Cancer

Note: try a search with the alternative UK spelling "Chemoembolisation"

compiled by doctordee
November 2003

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