Arterial embolization is a nonsurgical treatment that may be recommended for a patient who has been diagnosed with advanced renal cell carcinoma. Because these tumors are often large and can potentially invade nearby structures and veins, including the veins that run into the heart’s chambers, surgical removal may not be possible. Embolization may be a potential alternative for certain individuals.
When performing arterial embolization, an interventional radiologist will typically:
- Insert a small tube (catheter) into an artery in the patient’s groin area
- Direct the catheter to the renal artery that supplies blood to the affected kidney
- Inject small pieces of a special gelatin sponge, beads or a glue-like material through the catheter to block the artery that supplies blood to a cancerous tumor
Because a blockage created by arterial embolization can prevent a tumor from receiving oxygen and other vital substances that it needs to grow, the tumor cells can begin to die off, causing the tumor to shrink. In certain patients for whom surgery was previously ruled out, a tumor may shrink enough to allow for surgical removal. Additionally, disrupting the blood supply to a tumor can decrease the risk of extensive bleeding during surgery.
Similarly, arterial embolization can facilitate ablation (laser- or cold-based destruction) of larger tumors because inhibiting the blood supply to a tumor can make certain ablation procedures (radiofrequency ablation or cryoablation) safer and more effective. Arterial embolization can also enhance a patient’s quality of life by reducing the symptoms caused by a tumor that cannot be surgically removed.
Patients who are diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma can receive world-class treatment from the fellowship-trained surgeons in the Genitourinary Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. In addition to extensive surgical expertise, we offer patients access to promising new treatments that are available exclusively through our robust clinical trials program. Every day, we are working to advance the standard of care for all current and future kidney cancer patients.