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Transarterial Chemoembolization

What is transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) for liver cancer?

More than 120 liver tumor patients are treated annually at the University of Michigan using TACE , an image-guided, non-surgical procedure that is used to treat malignant lesions in the liver. The procedure uses an X-ray guided catheter to deliver both chemotherapy medication and embolization materials into the blood vessels in the liver that lead to the tumor.

With this technique, the chemotherapy targets the tumor while sparing the patient many side effects of traditional chemotherapy that is given to the whole body. The embolization cuts off the blood supply to the tumor. The special embolization beads delivered to the tumor are impregnated with the chemotherapy agent and the chemotherapy is slowly released from the beads, destroying the tumor over a period of time.

Multidisciplinary Liver Tumor Care

When liver tumor patients at the University of Michigan receive this therapy, it means that doctors and nurses are providing cancer care according to a personalized treatment plan developed by specialists in the U-M Rogel Cancer Center's multidisciplinary tumor program. Members are experts in hepatology, surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, and diagnostic and interventional radiology. Their frequent meetings allow patients to have the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of physicians with a focus on liver cancer - without having to schedule individual appointments.

What to expect

Patients receive TACE therapy when their cancer began in the liver (primary liver cancer), or spread to the liver from another area (secondary liver cancer or metastasis), and the tumor is classed at the intermediate stage. The goal of chemoembolization is to extend survival, relieve pain, and alleviate symptoms. Some patients with intermediate stage of primary liver cancer can be "down-staged" such that they can become candidates for a liver transplant. For some patients, TACE is used while they are waiting on the transplant list for an organ to become available. In this circumstance, the therapy is called a 'bridge to transplant.' Many of our liver cancer experts also see patients at the U-M Transplantation Center, assuring the delivery of comprehensive care.

This procedure is performed in the interventional radiology procedures rooms using light sedation. The catheter is inserted through the femoral artery in the groin. The catheter is then threaded from the groin directly up into the liver to the blood vessels feeding the tumor.

Patients stay overnight in our observation room and return home to usual light activity the next morning. TACE can be performed multiple times to achieve the desired response in the tumor.

Make an appointment/referral, or have your questions answered

The Cancer AnswerLine™ is staffed by oncology nurses and is just a phone call away to answer your questions or to assist you in making an appointment.

Please call 800-865-1125 to make an appointment or for the answers to any questions you have.

NOTE: Children and young adults receive treatment in the Solid Tumor Oncology Program, part of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

If you would like to refer a patient, please contact our M-Line service: 800-962-3555. For more information, visit our Make an Appointment web page.

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