Researchers are testing a new way to treat cancer without surgery or the side effects of chemotherapy. So far, it's being tested at just a few hospitals nationwide.
It's an experimental treatment called Therasphere. At the University of Michigan, interventional radiologists first locate the blood vessels that feed the patient's tumor, in this case in the liver. Then, they prepare a solution filled with tiny radioactive microspheres.
"The microspheres are very small, micron-sized particles less than the size of a human hair that emit a very high dose of radiation," says Dr. Riad Salem, an interventional radiologist.
The radiation is checked with a Geiger counter. Then, the microspheres travel into the tumor, and spend the next 12 days killing cancer cells. At that point, the radiation stops.
The new treatments are reported to be six times more effective than standard chemotherapy, without side effects like nausea or hair loss, but it's not a cure. Researchers say it appears to add about two years to the patient's life.
But for David Struck who is undergoing this treatment for advanced liver cancer, two more years are a real gift.
"He's not sick. We still go. We still do. We wintered in Florida the last couple years. I've still got him with me," says Judy Struck, David's wife.
Therasphere is an experimental treatment for advanced liver cancer in the U.S., but it is used more often in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Thailand.