Tue, Mar 24, 2009 - Page 2 News List

New therapy offers hope for liver cancer patients

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei Veterans General Hospital yesterday announced the adoption of a new therapy to treat liver cancer after repeated successes with the treatment in trials last year.

Chief radiologist Lee Rheun-chuan (李潤川) said that 41 patients who had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer had agreed to undergo the treatment last year. None had succumbed to the illness, Lee said.

Lee gave the example of a 65-year-old man who was dying of liver cancer. He had six tumors, all of which disappeared after six-months of therapy.

The treatment applies radiation from the yttrium 90 isotope, he said. Yttrium 90 enters the liver via a catheter. The effects of the localized radiation can be observed within two weeks.

“There is a 90 percent chance for a liver cancer patient to get his or her tumors under control or gradually eliminate them,” Lee told a press conference at the hospital yesterday.

While other radiation therapies for cancer kill tumors from outside the patient’s body, they also kill normal cells. Yttrium 90 therapy eliminates tumors more effectively, doctors said.

“This technology should bring new hope for liver cancer patients,” Lee said.

Because of potential side effects, however, Lee said yttrium 90 therapy would be used sparingly — only for liver cancer. Another drawback is that the therapy costs more than NT$600,000 and is not covered by National Health Insurance.

Lee said yttrium 90 was prohibited by the Department of Health except with special permission granted on a case-by-case basis.

Patients must be screened because the therapy may not be appropriate for certain cases, he said.

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