The poor results of systemic chemotherapy for colorectal liver metastases have focussed attention on the use of regional chemotherapy. Embolizing, biodegradable particles can be coadministered with anticancer drugs to slow temporarily the arterial blood flow and increase drug uptake within the tumour-bearing liver. Alternatively, such microspheres can be loaded with cytotoxic agents and act as slow-release mechanisms following embolization. In both instances, size and rate of degradation are important. The aim of this study was to evaluate the biological degradation of albumin microspheres in the liver of patients with colorectal liver metastases. Seven patients with advanced liver metastases had a 200-250 mg bolus dose of customized albumin microspheres (diameter range: 20-40 microns), labelled throughout with covalently bound 131I, injected into the hepatic artery. The abdomen was imaged immediately before injection to give an estimation of background count rate, and daily after injection for five days. Activity-time curves were constructed for the liver region. The median biological half-time of the particles within the whole liver was 2.4 days (range: 1.5-11.7 days), but was longer in tumours than in normal liver in some patients. The rate of microsphere degradation within tumours may be an important factor in the efficacy of microsphere-based regional therapy, and can be studied accurately by the technique we have employed.
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