Medical Approaches for Liver Cancer

Using medicines, drugs or other substances to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing is an important part of liver cancer treatment. We offer a number of medical therapies for liver cancer:

  • Regional chemotherapy: Liver cancer is usually treated with regional chemotherapy, in which a small pump containing the anticancer drugs is placed within the body to release the drugs directly into the blood vessels feeding the tumor. Regional chemotherapy directs the high-dose anticancer drugs to the tumor, and prevents them from circulating through the rest of the body, sparing you from unwanted side effects.
  • Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE): A form of regional chemotherapy in which the anticancer drugs are delivered directly through the hepatic artery leading to the liver. Small particles or spheres designed to block blood vessels are mixed with the drugs the close off the artery, trapping the drugs near the tumor. Blood flow (oxygen and nutrients) to the tumor is blocked, but the rest of the liver continues to receive blood via the hepatic portal vein.
  • Percutaneous ethanol injection: Uses a small needle to inject ethanol (alcohol) through the skin and directly into the liver tumor.
  • Targeted therapy: Drugs or substances that target a specific protein, receptor or other unique characteristic of the cancer cell, attacking only the cancer cell, sparing healthy ones. Some of these include sunitinib and sorafenib, two drugs that work in part by targeting and inhibiting the ability of the tumor to form new blood vessels to feed it.

Roswell Park is able to offer some targeted therapies through a clinical research study, allowing patients to have treatments unavailable at other care centers. Some of these include:

  • Using existing drugs in new ways: Drugs like sunitinib and sorafenib may be offered in conjunction with other treatments like chemoembolization and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), especially for patients who cannot have surgery.
  • The latest drugs: New agents like tivozanib for patients with advanced liver cancer.

Learn more about clinical trials involving liver cancer.