Interventional Oncology

Innovative Solutions for hard-to-reach, inoperable tumors.

Doctors attack malignant tumors via your vascular system.

When we think of cancer treatments, we usually think of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. But today there’s a fourth approach that uses imaging technologies like that employed in X-rays. It’s called interventional oncology—one of the fastest growing fields of interventional radiology, and it is performed by radiologists with special fellowship training. This fast-growing area of medicine includes a group of treatments for advanced cancers—especially the liver cancer—that offers a unique approach to destroying hard to reach or inoperable benign and cancerous tumors. Within a specially designed interventional radiology suite, physicians use computer-guided imagery which are generated by X-rays, to thread tiny guide wires and instruments through the body’s network of blood vessels and perform procedures right at the site of disease.

At Monmouth Medical Center, these treatments are offered in the Interventional Oncology Program, recently established in the Department of Radiology. The program’s launch was made possible by the recent addition to the staff of Ernest Wiggins, M.D., 32, an interventional radiologist who did his residency at Monmouth, and adds to the premier arsenal of cancer fighting programs at Monmouth’s Leon Hess Cancer Center, including surgical oncology, the Institute for Advanced Radiation Oncology which features TomoTherapy, the Jacqueline M. Wilentz Comprehensive Breast Centerand the David S. Zocchi Brain Tumor Center to name a few.

According to Dr. Wiggins, one advantage of interventional oncology is that it offers patients who otherwise were considered nonsurgical candidates for either resection of a tumor or organ transplant, another treatment option. “Interventional techniques offer an additional option and may also be employed as part of a multidisciplinary treatment plan through collaboration with a patient’s medical oncologist.”

With liver cancer, in many cases removing the tumor with surgery may not leave enough healthy tissue for the liver to still function. Primary liver tumors or liver tumors that have resulted from a metastatic cancer (a cancer that started somewhere else in the body) are good candidates for interventional oncology, indicates Dr. Wiggins. “In fact, in some cases, a previous attempt to treat the tumor, such as with chemotherapy, has failed and interventional oncology is the next option.”

Depending on the patient case, the interventional radiologist may employ either hepatic artery embolization or radiofrequency ablation. Both are delivered to the tumor site in the liver.

Hepatic artery embolization, in layman’s terms simply involves cutting off the liver tumor’s blood supply. The tumor is deprived of blood from the vessels that branch off the heptatic artery by inserting microscopic particles. “The beads act as a dam to block blood flow to the tumor, but blood still flows to the rest of the liver,” he explains. The tumor cells then lack the nourishment to multiply and survive, and in many cases resulting in decreasing the size of the tumor. By reducing the size of the tumors, doctors often can make liver surgery viable.

Radiofrequency ablation, which is utilized for small tumors, utilizes radio waves to create heat which is directed at the tumor to destroy the cancer cells and leave healthy liver tissue in tact. During the following months the destroyed, dead cells turn into a harmless scar.

“We employ these techniques to preserve liver function by either killing the tumor or keeping it from progressing, which helps preserve the patient's quality of life and may extend life over the course of this disease,” adds Dr. Wiggins.

In addition to treating liver tumors, interventional oncology is also utilized to treat kidney tumors, lung tumors and neuro-endocrine tumors. Embolization is also a technique that interventional radiologists use to treat benign tumors of the uterus in a procedure called uterine fibroid embolization, a possible alternative to hysterectomy or myomectomy.

In the future, Dr. Wiggins views other treatment modalities as possible additions to interventional oncology program at Monmouth Medical Center, including chemoembolization, and portal vein embolization.

Monmouth’s interventional oncologists work closely with the entire Cancer Center team to provide care beyond what the typical community hospital can offer.

For more information on interventional oncology at Monmouth Medical Center, please call 1-888-724-7123.

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