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When cancer spreads, the liver is a common site for metastatic disease. Radioembolization (TheraSphere®, SIR-Spheres®) is an innovative therapy that delivers radiation directly to tumors in the liver.


TheraSphere® is a powerful*, well-tolerated liver cancer therapy that consists of millions of small glass microspheres (20 to 30 micrometers in diameter, or about a third of the width of a human hair) containing radioactive yttrium-90. The product is injected by physicians into the artery of the patient’s liver through a catheter, which allows the treatment to be delivered directly to the tumor via blood flow. 

This approach provides a high concentration of radiation treatment directed to the tumor, and limits both damage to surrounding healthy tissue and side effects for the patient that often result from other forms of cancer treatment, such as external radiation or systemic therapy. This form of radioembolization therapy also keeps future treatment options open as patients progress through the later stages of their disease. 


SIR-Spheres® Y-90 resin microspheres are tiny radioactive ‘beads’ used in selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT), sometimes referred to as Y-90 radioembolization, and are used for the treatment of stage IV colon cancer that has spread to the liver and can’t be surgically removed. 

SIR-Spheres® Y-90 resin microspheres therapy is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure and patients usually go home hours after the procedure is completed. 

SIR-Spheres® Y-90 resin microspheres are the only fully FDA approved microsphere radiation therapy in the United States for the treatment of colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver. 

Y-90 Treatment for Liver Metastasis

Y-90, also known as radioembolization, is used to treat tumors that originated in the liver or are metastasized to the liver from elsewhere in the body. For patients who are not a candidate for surgery or transplantation, Y-90 may be an option. The procedure may extend life from months to years and improve the patient’s quality of life. In some cases, it may eventually allow for the additional options of surgery or transplantation. 

Tiny beads called microspheres are inserted by a catheter through a small incision in the skin and into the blood vessels in the liver which feeds the cancerous cells. The outpatient procedure typically takes an hour. These microspheres are tagged with the radioactive isotope yttrium Y-90. They then travel to the tumor site and are lodged in the tumor’s capillaries. Here they deliver a high dose of radiation to the tumor minimizing radiation to the remaining normal liver. 

The radiation dose from the Y-90 microspheres will slowly decrease during the t two weeks after the procedure and then disappear in approximately a month. The microspheres themselves will remain in the liver without causing discomfort or harm.

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