What’s New in the Treatment of Advanced Liver Cancer?
Blog contributed by Dr Vincent Tam, MD, University of Calgary
October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month and liver cancer remains an important disease as it is the 6th most common cancer in the world and 3rd most common cause of cancer death world-wide.
Advanced liver cancer is a stage where the cancer is incurable. At this stage the cancer cannot be surgically removed, and localized procedures are not appropriate. The recommended treatment would usually be a systemic treatment such as an oral or intravenously administered medication. The goal of treatment would be to prolong survival and hopefully preserve or improve quality of life.
Without any treatment average survival is estimated at 8 months. Sorafenib was the only oral medication that was used to treat advanced liver cancer for about a decade going back to 2008. The average survival of an advanced liver cancer patient who was treated with sorafenib was about 11 months. In the last 5 years there have been a number of positive clinical trials which have found that new medications can further improve survival compared to sorafenib or when given after sorafenib. Now in 2022, with the use of other oral medications (lenvatinib, regorafenib, cabozantinib) and immunotherapy combinations (atezolizumab+bevacizumab, durvalumab+tremelimumab), the average survival of advanced liver cancer patients has been extended to about 19 months.
It’s exciting to see that there are now more treatment options for these patients and that overall progress has been made in the treatment of advanced liver cancer. However, more work still needs to be done as we hope to find a cure one day!