Please note:  NHS England funding for SIRT, which had been available for patients with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma through the CtE (Commissioning through Evaluation) programme ceased on 31st March, 2017. 

However, for those meeting the eligibility criteria, SIRT is still available privately, or by making an application for its use under exceptional circumstances.

SIRT (Selective Internal Radiation Therapy, also known as radio-embolisation) is a special type of internal radiotherapy that targets liver tumours inside the body with high doses of radiation.

SIRT involves injecting millions of tiny radioactive ‘beads’ called microspheres into the main blood vessel of the liver through a long thin tube (catheter). The microspheres travel through the blood to the liver and lodge themselves in the very small blood vessels in and around the liver tumours, where they give off high doses of radiation. As the microspheres only give off radiation to a small area, they target the liver tumour while doing little damage to the surrounding healthy liver tissue. The action of the radiation destroys the liver tumour cells causing the tumours to shrink.

Benefits of SIRT:

  • Targets liver tumours directly with radiation while minimising damage to the surrounding healthy liver
  • Delivers much higher doses of radiation over much longer periods of time than would be possible with external beam radiation
  • Delivers a radiation dose that is well below the limit the healthy liver tissue can tolerate without serious damage

SIRT is used to treat liver tumours that can’t be removed by surgery. It has no effect on tumours outside the liver.

 Where is SIRT available?

SIRT may be paid for privately and can be accessed throughout the UK at hospitals with treatment teams trained in the SIRT procedure. For more details go to:

SIRT is currently available at:

Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge
Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
King’s College Hospital, London
Nottingham City Hospital
Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham
University Hospital Southampton
St James’ Hospital, Leeds
The Christie, Manchester
The Churchill Hospital, Oxford
The Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne
The Royal Free Hospital, London

Private funding: Most major insurers in the UK fund SIRT. If you have private medical insurance, speak to your provider to see if you are covered.

To see the NICE guidelines on SIRT, click here

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February 2021