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Patient Perspective Images

Soon after Bill Revels noticed persistent pain in his stomach, a hospital visit confirmed one of the most frightening causes: cancer of the liver. The large lesion in Bill’s liver, discovered by CT scan, meant that he would need urgent treatment. Unfortunately, however, the vast size of the tumour meant that Bill was not a viable candidate for surgery. Luckily, Bill’s physician at the Halifax Infirmary, Dr. Robert Abraham, had another tool up his sleeve: a biomaterials-based procedure called Y-90 Radioembolization.

“My daughter and I were thoroughly impressed with this procedure, and we were so happy with the results,” says Bill. “I was able to walk right out of the hospital the same day, and the only side effect I experienced afterward was tiredness. That was in 2019, and today, I am lucky to be doing very well.”

As a minimally-invasive procedure, Y-90 Radioembolization involves using tiny glass beads to block blood supply to tumours in the liver, and to deliver radiation within them. Unlike traditional radiation or chemotherapy, this procedure spares the body’s healthy tissues, by targeting radiation directly at the tumour site.

“Y-90 Radioembolization can be done with just a tiny nick in the skin, avoiding broad radiation or even major liver surgery,” says Dr. Abraham. “It’s thanks to biomaterials research that this procedure exists, and it will be thanks to biomaterials research that we can improve it even further in the future. I am very excited that the Molly Appeal is spearheading fundraising for a new Biomaterials lab here at Dalhousie where we can expand our ground-breaking biomaterials research.”

Where the glass beads used in Y-90 Radioembolization currently aren’t visible on imaging scans until after the procedure, Dr. Abraham’s biomaterials research team in Halifax have developed a new glass product, which would allow physicians to monitor the procedure and confirm that the treatment is successful, in real time. Visible on X-ray and CT scan during the procedure itself, Dr. Abraham’s novel glass product will be taken to clinical trials this year.

“A few years ago, I didn’t know what biomaterials science was or what it could do, but this procedure saved my life, and I am so grateful,” says Bill. “Running my own limousine company, I’ve always enjoyed being busy, and today, at 78 years young, I still have lots of stamina. I feel lucky to continue to work, golf and spend time with my daughter, on the other side of liver cancer.”