Tumor Embolization

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At UT Southwestern Medical Center, our cancer doctors and interventional radiologists specialize in tumor embolization, which treats both cancerous and noncancerous tumors.

Minimally Invasive Treatment for Tumors

Tumor embolization is a minimally invasive procedure in which a small, thin tube (catheter) is guided into the feeding arteries of a tumor in order either to shut down the blood supply to the tumor or deliver tumor-killing therapy directly to the tumor.

Several different therapies are available and can be customized depending on the type and location of the tumors. For instance, uterine fibroids respond well to embolization with small particles that block off the blood flow to the fibroids. Certain liver tumors respond best to embolization with small beads infused with chemotherapy. Other liver tumors respond well to embolization with radioactive particles that kill tumors with radiation. 

Embolization has several benefits, such as:

  • Relieving symptoms, such as heavy bleeding in women who have uterine fibroids
  • Shrinking tumors to allow surgical removal
  • Reducing blood loss during surgery to remove a tumor
  • Slowing tumor growth when surgery or chemotherapy are not possible

Our interventional radiologists and cancer specialists have the experience and training to provide the most advanced techniques for tumor embolization. Our teams participate in the latest research to develop new therapies for minimally invasive tumor treatment.

Conditions We Treat With Tumor Embolization

Our doctors use embolization to treat both cancerous and benign tumors, such as:

Cancer tumors (particularly in the liver or kidney)

  • Hepatocellular cancer
  • Metastatic disease to the liver, typically from the colon or pancreas
  • Renal cell cancer
Noncancerous tumors
  • Uterine fibroids: Noncancerous tumors that develop in and around the uterus
  • Angiomyolipoma of the kidney
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia
  • Hepatic adenoma

Tumor Embolization Treatments

The doctor makes a small incision in the groin area to access a blood vessel and carefully threads a catheter into the vessel. The doctor then injects dye into the vessel through the catheter so that the vessel shows up on imaging.

Using imaging such as ultrasound or fluoroscopy (X-ray video), the doctor guides the catheter to the area to be treated. The doctor then inserts medication or agents such as tiny plastic particles, foam, or tiny metal coils to seal off blood vessels that feed the tumor.

We also offer embolization procedures that specifically treat cancerous tumors, such as:

  • Bland embolization, where small beads are injected into the tumor vessel to stop the flow of blood to the tumor
  • Chemoembolization, which sends tiny beads infused with chemotherapy through a blood vessel directly into a tumor
  • Radioembolization, which is radiation therapy using tiny beads that have a radioactive isotope on them to directly treat tumors

What to Expect

Information about each procedure will be provided during consultation, as well as details about medications that might need to be stopped prior to the procedure (usually blood-thinning medications).

Each procedure is typically performed with conscious (moderate) sedation, which allows patients to maintain their own breathing without the use of a ventilator. While patients might feel sleepy, they will be able to respond to questions or follow commands (such a taking a deep breath) during the procedure. 

Patients undergoing radioembolization should expect to remain in the hospital several hours post-procedure for monitoring but are typically discharged the same day. Patients undergoing bland or chemoembolization or uterine fibroid embolization should expect to stay in the hospital overnight. 

Patients undergoing embolization procedures often describe mild pain and fatigue for about a week. In most cases, normal activity can resume in one to two weeks.

Clinical Trials

As one of the nation’s top academic medical centers, UT Southwestern offers a number of clinical trials aimed at improving the outcomes of patients. Current embolization studies include:

A Phase Ib/II Study of LEE011 and Chemoembolization in Patients with Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma

A Humanitarian Device Exemption Treatment Protocol of TheraSphere for Treatment of Unresectable Hepatocellular Carcinoma

A Phase 3 Randomized, Open-Label Study Comparing Pexa-Vec (Vaccinia GM CSF / Thymidine Kinase-Deactivated Virus) Followed by Sorafenib Versus Sorafenib in Patients with Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) Without Prior Systemic Therapy

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