Arterial Chemotherapy Infusion of the Liver Chemoembolization of the Liver (TACE)

  • Medical Author:
    Tse-Ling Fong, MD

    Dr. Fong is the Medical Director of the USC Liver Transplant Program and Associate Professor of Medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Southern California and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and the subspecialty of Gastroenterology.

  • Medical Reviewer: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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How does chemoembolization differ from arterial chemotherapy infusion?

Both techniques takes advantage of the fact that liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC) is a very vascular (contains many blood vessels) tumor and gets its blood supply exclusively from the branches of the hepatic artery. Chemoembolization (TACE) is similar to intra-arterial infusion of chemotherapy. But in TACE, there is the additional step of blocking (embolizing) the small blood vessels with different types of compounds, such as gelfoam or even small metal coils.

How does chemoembolization compare with arterial chemotherapy infusion?

Thus, TACE has the advantages of exposing the tumor to high concentrations of chemotherapy and confining the agents locally since they are not carried away by the blood stream. At the same time, this technique deprives the tumor of its needed blood supply, which can result in the damage or death of the tumor cells.

The type and frequency of complications of TACE and intra-arterial chemotherapy are similar. The potential disadvantage of TACE is that blocking the feeding vessels to the tumor(s) may make future attempts at intra-arterial infusions impossible. Moreover, so far, there are no head-to-head studies directly comparing the effectiveness of intra-arterial infusion versus chemoembolization.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/24/2015

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