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Precision Management of Liver Cancer in India: TACE

25 Nov, 2023

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Liver cancer, specifically hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), is a pervasive global health challenge, and India is no exception to its impact. In this blog, we will explore the intricacies of Transarterial Chemoembolization (TACE), a precise and highly effective treatment modality, and its role in combating liver cancer within the Indian context.


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Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a malignant neoplasm that originates within the hepatocytes, the primary functional cells of the liver. It ranks prominently among the leading causes of cancer-related mortality worldwide. In India, the incidence of HCC has exhibited an alarming surge, primarily attributable to predisposing factors such as hepatitis B and C infections, excessive alcohol consumption, and the growing prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).


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TACE: A Precise Intervention

Transarterial Chemoembolization (TACE) is a minimally invasive procedure that offers targeted therapy for liver cancer patients. It involves the delivery of chemotherapy drugs directly into the blood vessels supplying the tumor, followed by the embolization of these vessels to cut off the tumor's blood supply. This dual action ensures that the chemotherapy drugs are concentrated within the tumor, maximizing their effectiveness while minimizing systemic side effects.


Here's how TACE works:


1. Angiography:

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The TACE procedure commences with angiography, a crucial step for accurate targeting. It takes place in a specialized radiology suite within a hospital or clinic. To start, a local anesthetic is applied to the patient's groin area, where the femoral artery is accessible. A small incision is made, and a catheter, a thin and flexible tube, is carefully inserted into the femoral artery. Under the real-time guidance of fluoroscopy, an imaging technique that employs X-rays, the catheter is meticulously guided through the patient's arterial system. The ultimate goal is to reach the hepatic artery, the primary blood vessel supplying oxygenated blood to the liver.


2. Chemotherapy Injection:

With the catheter securely positioned within the hepatic artery, the next step is the introduction of chemotherapy drugs. These drugs, which are carefully selected to specifically target and destroy cancer cells, are injected directly into the hepatic artery. What makes this delivery method unique is that it allows for the administration of chemotherapy at a highly concentrated level. The high concentration of chemotherapy drugs in the hepatic artery ensures that the tumor is exposed to an intense dose of medication, while healthy surrounding tissues receive much lower concentrations. This precise targeting is essential for effectively treating the tumor and reducing the risk of systemic side effects.


3. Embolization:

Following the chemotherapy infusion, the procedure advances to embolization. This phase involves blocking the blood vessels that nourish the tumor. To achieve this, tiny embolic agents, often in the form of small particles or beads, are introduced through the catheter and directed into the hepatic artery. These embolic agents serve a critical role in obstructing the blood vessels supplying the tumor. By doing so, they effectively "starve" the tumor, depriving it of the essential nutrients and oxygen it needs to grow and thrive. The combination of delivering chemotherapy directly to the tumor site and then cutting off its blood supply enhances the treatment's overall effectiveness.


4. Monitoring and Post-Procedure Care:

Throughout the TACE procedure, the interventional radiologist continuously monitors the progress using fluoroscopy, making adjustments to the catheter's position as necessary. Once the entire process is completed, the catheter is carefully removed, and the incision site in the groin is typically closed, either with sutures or a closure device. Patients are then observed in a recovery area for a brief period, during which their vital signs are monitored to ensure there are no immediate complications. While most patients can return to their regular activities within a day or two, they may experience some mild side effects, such as fatigue, abdominal discomfort, or nausea, which typically resolve within a few days.

Transarterial Chemoembolization (TACE) is a highly precise and targeted procedure for treating liver cancer. It combines the direct delivery of chemotherapy drugs into the tumor's blood supply with the subsequent blocking of these vessels, effectively combating the cancer while minimizing the side effects associated with systemic chemotherapy. This approach offers hope to patients facing liver cancer, especially those who may not be candidates for surgery.


Benefits of TACE:

  1. Precise Targeting: TACE delivers chemotherapy directly to the tumor site, sparing healthy liver tissue and reducing systemic side effects.
  2. Localized Treatment: TACE is particularly beneficial for patients with small to medium-sized tumors and those who are not suitable candidates for surgery.
  3. Improved Survival Rates: Studies have shown that TACE can lead to longer survival for patients with liver cancer, especially when used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
  4. Minimally Invasive: TACE is a minimally invasive procedure, which means shorter hospital stays and faster recovery times compared to surgery.
  5. Palliative Care: TACE can also be used as a palliative treatment to relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life for patients with advanced liver cancer.


Availability in India:

India boasts an array of leading hospitals and specialized cancer centers equipped to provide TACE as an integral component of liver cancer management. These institutions house skilled medical professionals who are adept at performing TACE, ensuring patients receive the highest standards of care.


Transarterial Chemoembolization (TACE) is a paradigm-shifting approach in the fight against hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in India. Its precision, combined with its ability to target and treat liver cancer while minimizing adverse effects, offers renewed hope to patients grappling with this challenging disease. For individuals and families confronting liver cancer, engaging in discussions with healthcare providers to explore TACE as part of a comprehensive treatment strategy can usher in new possibilities for managing and overcoming this formidable adversary.

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FAQs

TACE is a minimally invasive medical procedure used to treat liver cancer. It involves delivering chemotherapy drugs directly into the blood vessels that supply the tumor, followed by blocking these vessels to starve the tumor of nutrients.