- How is liver cancer treated?
- Surgery for liver cancer
- Tumor ablation for liver cancer
- Embolization therapy for liver cancer
- Radiation treatment for liver cancer
- Targeted therapy for liver cancer
- Chemotherapy for liver cancer
- Clinical trials for liver cancer
- Complementary and alternative therapies for liver cancer
Chemotherapy for liver cancer
Chemotherapy (or “chemo”) is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Usually the drugs are given into a vein or by mouth. Once the drugs get in the blood, they spread throughout the body. This makes them useful for cancer that has spread to distant organs.
But liver cancer does not respond to most chemo drugs. The drugs that have worked best are doxorubicin (Adriamycin®), 5-fluorouracil, and cisplatin. But even these drugs shrink only a small portion of tumors, and the responses often do not last long. Most studies have shown that chemo does not help liver cancer patients to live longer.
Hepatic artery infusion: Because standard chemo does not work very well for liver cancer, doctors have studied putting chemo drugs right into the hepatic artery. This is called hepatic artery infusion (HAI). The chemo goes into the liver through the hepatic artery, but the healthy liver breaks down most of the drug before it can reach the rest of the body. This gets more chemo to the tumor and may cause fewer or less severe side effects.
Although early studies have found that HAI works to shrink tumors, more research is still needed. This method may not be useful in all patients because it often means surgery is needed to put in a catheter. Many liver cancer patients may not be able to withstand this surgery.
Possible side effects of chemo
Chemo can have side effects like these:
- Mouth sores
- Loss of appetite
- Hair loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- A higher chance of infection (from a shortage of white blood cells)
- Easy bleeding or bruising (from a shortage of blood platelets)
- Tiredness and shortness of breath (from low red blood cell counts)
Along with the side effects in the list above, some drugs may have their own specific side effects. Most side effects go away once treatment is over. If you have side effects, be sure to tell your doctor or nurse. There are often ways to help.
Last Medical Review: 07/19/2012
Last Revised: 01/23/2013