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Microsphere Liver Cancer Treatment Gives Hope To Patients

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Liver cancer often leaves patients with few treatment options, but medical advancements in the Triangle could help more people live longer and better lives.

Betty Kabeller, 45, has liver cancer. She said she does not mind driving to Cary from Florida to see her doctor.

When Kabeller was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, she was not given any treatment options.

"I was told that chemotherapy and radiation wouldn't kill the kind of cancer I had," she said.

Now, she has an option. A new treatment uses tiny beads of irradiated glass called microspheres to kill tumors.

It is not a cure to liver cancer, but the doctors and Kabeller are pleased with the results so far.

"It was like, 'I'm going for it,'" Kabeller said.

Dr. Andrew Kennedy, a radiation oncologist at Wake Radiology, developed the procedure for people like Kabeller.

"They're not ready to concede to this disease," Kennedy said.

Microspheres are made up of seven million of the tiny beads of glass that are charged with radiation.

During the procedure, doctors thread a catheter through the groin and into the liver.

The microspheres are injected into the body. They stick to the tumors and emit radiation.

"They can destroy the tumor alone and not irradiate the normal liver that's nearby," Kennedy said.

The beads are too tiny to spread outside the liver, according to Kennedy. He said some patients experience side effects, like fatigue and nausea.

Overall, the treatment has helped many patients live longer than expected.

"In patients that had failed all conventional treatment, we were able to give them some longer time of living and good quality of living," Kennedy said.

In some cases, tumors go away completely. Kennedy said Kabeller's response to the treatment is one of the best.

"We have no evidence that there is any tumor left in her liver," he said.

Kabeller said her health is better than she ever expected.

"I've had more than one and a half years of good quality life. My life's been very good," she said.

Kennedy said he expects to start performing the procedure at WakeMed in the near futuire.