Interventional oncology, the fourth pillar of modern cancer care

Benjamin May, MD using X-ray fluoroscopy
Benjamin May, MD, an interventional oncologist, uses real-time X-ray fluoroscopy during a Y90 radioembolization.


Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center in Greenwich has expanded its arsenal of tools to fight cancer with the addition of interventional oncology, which is often called the fourth pillar of modern cancer care along with medical oncology, radiation oncology and surgical oncology.

Interventional oncology is a rapidly growing field that uses minimally invasive, targeted procedures to deliver treatment directly to the tumor, while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. Interventional oncologists perform these procedures guided by images produced by ultrasound, CT scans and real-time X-rays.

“We’re excited to bring this high level of cancer care to our community,” said Benjamin May, MD, an interventional oncologist at Greenwich Hospital. “These interventional procedures can be performed in place of or in combination with other cancer treatments to provide comprehensive care. They are also a treatment option for patients who have exhausted all other traditional treatment options and would otherwise have had no choice but to receive palliative treatments to control symptoms.”

For example, Y90 radioembolization is an effective outpatient treatment for liver cancer that targets tumors with a high dose of radiation while sparing healthy tissue. Y90 refers to the radioactive isotope Yttrium-90, which is attached to tiny particles that deposit radiation directly into tumors via long, thin tubes called catheters. These are inserted through a tiny nick in the skin with less discomfort and side effects than many alternative therapies. Y90 treatment can be used in combination with traditional treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. “Because this procedure is minimally invasive and so targeted, patients return home the same day to recover,” said Dr. May.

Another procedure known as transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) is a minimally invasive procedure to restrict a tumor’s blood supply. Small particles coated with chemotherapy drugs are injected selectively through a catheter into an artery directly supplying the tumor, while high doses of chemotherapy remain in the tumor.

At Greenwich Hospital, interventional oncologists are part of a cancer care team that includes radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, surgeons, technicians, nurses, social workers, dietitians and other healthcare professionals. “Our team takes pride in addressing the medical and emotional needs of our patients,” said Dr. May.