News | February 09, 2010

U.S. Insurers to Cover Radioembolization for Liver Cancer

February 9, 2010 - About 22,600 cases of primary liver cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S. and one million annually worldwide, reports the American Cancer Society.

Two of the largest health insurers in the United States have recently approved coverage of radioembolization to treat unresectable liver cancer, marking the largest favorable determinations for reimbursement coverage for this treatment by U.S. insurers.

The most common form of primary liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which in the U.S. is commonly caused by alcohol abuse or by the hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus. HCC is the fifth most common form of cancer in the world and is increasing globally due to an increase in the incidence of hepatitis. Treatment options for patients with primary liver cancer are limited as HCC is usually unresectable.

An important technique for treating radioembolization, also called selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT), is a process by which small beads or microspheres, containing the radioactive element yttrium-90, are delivered directly to the tumor using the tumor's own blood supply.

One form of radioembolization, TheraSphere by MDS Nordion, will now be reimbursed. TheraSphere is a low toxicity, liver cancer therapy that consists of millions of micro-glass beads containing radioactive yttrium-90. The product is injected by physicians into the main artery of the patient's liver through a catheter, which allows the treatment to be delivered directly to the tumor via blood vessels. The TheraSphere treatment can generally be administered on an outpatient basis and does not usually require an overnight hospital stay. After treatment, most TheraSphere patients are eligible for further therapeutic options because the procedure preserves liver vascularity.

For more information: www.mdsnordion.com/therasphere

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