Chemosaturation therapy


Direct delivery of anti-cancer drugs to the liver while its blood supply is sealed off minimises systemic side effects

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What is chemosaturation therapy?

Chemosaturation therapy treats liver cancer.

The liver is temporarily sealed from the body's blood circulation, allowing targeted delivery of anti-cancer drugs at more concentrated doses than systemic chemotherapy.

By 'saturating' the whole liver, both visible and undetected tumours can be targeted.

What is chemosaturation therapy?

Dr Julian Hague and Dr George Raja, Interventional Radiologists along with and Dr Greg Wilson, Medical Oncologist talk through chemosaturation therapy. Watch our video to find out more about chemosaturation therapy and how it differs from traditional chemotherapies.

Need to know

A catheter with tiny balloons is inserted into the inferior vena cava (IVC) near the entrance of the heart via a vein in the groin. The balloons are inflated to isolate the liver's blood supply.

Another catheter is inserted via an artery in the groin and placed in the artery that supplies blood to the liver. The chemotherapy agent is delivered via this catheter for 30 minutes, targeting all tumours in the liver.

The contaminated blood from the liver is drained from the body, into a filter that removes up to 98% of the chemotherapy agent before returning the blood to the body.

The procedure lasts three to five hours and is done under general anaesthetic.

Eligibility for chemosaturation therapy must be decided by your consultant on a case-by-case basis and will depend on factors such as:

  • your overall health
  • stage and grade of the cancer
  • how healthy the liver is, including the parts without cancer
  • the location of the veins and arteries to the tumours
  • what treatments you’ve had, including surgery

Your consultant may also request scans and blood tests that would help determine that you're healthy enough to undergo the procedure.

You'll go into the hospital the day before the procedure. Please bring all your medications with you. You may also be given medicines to help prepare you for the procedure.

The balloons around your liver and catheters in your groin will be removed and you'll be moved to a recovery room. You may feel tired and have an upset stomach but this shouldn't last long. Any pain can be managed with pain relieving medication. Typically the procedure requires an in-patient stay of two to four nights.

After you're discharged, you'd still be monitored for side effects. You may have:

  • blood tests for up to three weeks post-procedure
  • new drugs to help with your recovery
  • scans after six to eight weeks to monitor how your tumour has responded to the procedure

Your consultant will also talk to you about returning to your normal activities, including work.

Chemosat FAQs

Each person's treatment map is different, this maybe the first treatment you are offered or in some cases you may already be receiving treatment. Your consultant will talk you through the choices that are most suitable for you, in some circumstances we can suggest treating you in a combination of ways.
Chemosaturation therapy can be repeated and on average a person will receive two to three treatments at bi-monthly intervals. Each person's treatment is unique so any treatment schedules are tailored to each individual.
Chemosaturation therapy can treat cancer that has started in the liver, known as primary liver cancer, as well as cancer that has started in another part of your body and has now spread to the liver, which is called secondary or metastatic liver cancer.

Chemosaturation therapy is suitable for patients with primary liver cancer and secondary/metastatic liver cancer. Whether we can give you chemosaturation therapy depends on a number of things. These include:

  • the stage and grade of the cancer
  • your overall health
  • how much cancer you have and whether it’s mainly in the liver
  • how healthy the liver is, including the parts that don’t have cancer
  • the location of the veins and arteries to the tumours
  • what treatment you’ve already had, including surgery
The therapy treatment has shown to help slow or reverse the growth of tumours from certain cancers in the liver, however it is not a cure.
No. A general anaesthetic is given during the treatment. When you wake up, you might have some catheters in, which can be a bit uncomfortable. If it is, we will give you some medication to ease the discomfort.
The treatment usually takes about three to five hours and you’ll stay with us for up to four days.
Chemosaturation therapy is a procedure where we can give a high dose of an anti-cancer drug directly to the liver, which can help destroy the cancer. As the drug saturates the liver, it targets not only tumours we can see, but those too small to show up in a scan. And because we isolate the liver during treatment, which stops most of the drug from spreading to other parts of the body, you might not have as many side effects as you would with traditional chemotherapy.
Because we stop most of the anti-cancer drug from spreading to other parts of your body, you might not have as many side effects as you would with traditional chemotherapy. Most people only report minor fatigue after the procedure, but are soon back to their normal routines. Many people don’t lose their hair, but everyone’s different. Your consultant will talk you through what to expect, should you be a suitable candidate for chemosaturation therapy.

Our Chemosaturation therapy locations

The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
The Christie Private Care

The Christie Private Care

Wilmslow Road M20 4BX Manchester

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.