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Can TACE Cure Liver Cancer?

Can TACE Cure Liver Cancer
Can TACE Cure Liver Cancer

Can TACE Cure Liver Cancer?

Liver cancer is a growing disease in the world. It is spreading at a rapid rate and needs to be controlled. But for its treatment, different techniques are used. The most effective among these treatments is TACE (Transarterial Chemoembolization). It is a technique in which blood supply to the hepatic artery in the liver is blocked. As a result, the cancerous cells in the liver die. The material which prevents the blood also supplies chemotherapy drugs to the tumor. Hence, it is called Transarterial Chemoembolization.

 How Does It Work

TACE helps in finishing the tumor in two ways. First, a very high concentration of chemotherapy drugs is injected into the tumor directly. The rest of the body is safe from the effects of these drugs. Secondly, it cuts off blood supply to the tumor. As a result, the tumor dies due to a lack of nutrition and oxygen.

The liver has two blood supplies. First, the hepatic artery and second, a large portal vein. The kidney receives its 75% blood supply through the portal vein. The hepatic artery is responsible for only 25% of the blood supply to the liver. Chemotherapy drugs are injected into the hepatic artery. They reach the tumor directly without affecting the rest of the liver. Then, the tumor is deprived of blood supply while the rest of the liver continues to be supplied by blood from the hepatic artery. This allows a higher concentration of chemotherapy drugs to be in contact with the tumor for an extended period.

How It Is Performed

TACE is performed by a professional radiologist or surgeon in the operating room. X-ray images of the path of blood vessels to the tumor are taken. A medication called Allopurinol is also given to the patient. It protects the kidneys from the side effects of chemotherapy drugs. Certain other medications are also provided to prevent pain, infection, and nausea. The patient is connected to the monitor to track his heart rate, oxygen level, and blood pressure. Then, the nurse inserts an intravenous line into a vein in the arm of the patient to administer a sedative. Some patients may require general anaesthesia.

Then, a small skin incision is made at that site. A thin catheter is inserted through the skin into the artery, which advances into the liver. Material is also inserted through the catheter, and some more x-rays are taken. After that, the embolic agents and chemotherapy drugs are mixed. This mixture is then injected into the artery feeding the tumor, through the catheter. When the procedure completes, the catheter is removed. The bleeding is stopped by applying pressure. The doctor may use a closure device to stop bleeding. Stitches are not visible on the skin. The patient stays in bed for about four to six hours in the operating room.

Anti-Cancer Drugs Used In TACE

The different anti-cancer drugs used during TACE are given below:

  1. Cisplatin
  2. Doxorubicin
  3. Mitomycin

Certain other medications may also be used, keeping in view the overall health of the patient.

Side Effects

Side effects may occur with almost every type of treatment. However, it is different for different people. Some patients may have many side effects, while others may have less. During TACE, side effects may occur due to damage to the healthy tissues. Side effects occur during any time. It may occur immediately after TACE, after a few days, or after several weeks. Most of the side effects of TACE are minor and go away on their own. But some are long-lasting and become permanent. Some of the common side effects are listed below:

  1. Nausea
  2. Vomiting
  3. Fever and fatigue
  4. Hair loss
  5. Bleeding at the catheter site
  6. Various infections


TACE is an effective technique to treat liver cancer. About 70% of patients see improvement in the liver. It can improve survival rates and quality of life. However, TACE is a treatment, not a cure. It is not suggested in severe liver dysfunction or abnormal blood clotting.