Pasig hospital offers fresh hope to liver cancer patients
MANILA, Philippines – A new technology introduced recently in the
Philippines offers new hope to Filipinos with liver cancer, including
those whose chances of survival are considered slim.
Radioembolization involves the insertion of radioactive beads into
specific cancerous areas in the liver to reduce or completely block
blood flow to the tumor.
Dr. Ramon Santos-Ocampo, an interventional radiologist at the Medical
City in Ortigas Extension is the only local doctor certified to perform
the medical procedure.
The Pasig City-based hospital recently introduced the new technology to
Santos-Ocampo said the new procedure was documented to increase patient
survival by about one and a half years more compared to other
The radiologist said radioembolization was not an experimental
treatment but a mainstream intervention for patients with cancer of the
He said the procedure was performed on patients who developed cancer of
the liver either because of defects in the liver or from another
Cancers in the colon and pancreas often spread to the liver first
before moving to other parts of the body.
Santos-Ocampo said treatment options for liver cancer usually included
organ transplant, surgery, or chemoembolization that involved the
injection of a foreign substance into the tumor to stop blood flow to
kill cancer cells.
But Santos-Ocampo said many patients in the country did not respond to
these treatments. He hoped radioembolization would be beneficial to
Santos-Ocampo said the new treatment was best for Filipinos because of
the high incidence of Hepatitis B in the country. Hepa B, he said,
usually developed into cirrhosis or cancer of the liver.
He added that Filipinos would save a lot of money having the procedure
done here instead of in the United States, Hong Kong or Singapore.
The procedure costs about P1 million at Medical City. In the US, the
price tag is about $55,000 (about P2.4 million).
The procedure involves the insertion of about 20-60 million microbeads
or the radioactive Yttrium 90 (Y90) spheres into the liver tumor
through the artery in the groin.
The minute radiation beads conduct selective embolization (blocking of
blood flow) to kill the tumor without causing significant radiation to
the normal parts of the liver or even outside the patient’s body.
The Y90 spheres come from Australia.
While the therapy is new in the country, Santos-Ocampo said it has been
around for 10 years now.
In Sydney, he said, the procedure was so common it was considered an
outpatient intervention procedure.
But Santos-Ocampo said timing might be perfect for the introduction of
the treatment here.
In its present form, he said the new procedure had gone through
On Wednesday, a 70-year-old woman with state 4 colorectal cancer that
had spread to the liver underwent radioembolization at Medical City.
She was discharged yesterday and there was very little disruption in
her daily activities.
Santos-Ocampo performed the procedure under the supervision of
Australian interventional radiologist Dr. Lourens Bester.
Earlier, a Filipino based in Canada underwent the procedure, he added