Significant advances in treatment of liver cancer this year

Prof Pierce KH Chow

KUCHING: This year has seen significant advances in the treatment of Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC) also commonly known as liver cancer.

Previously, there was only one therapy for advanced stage liver cancer; there are now several alternative therapies available.

According to Prof Pierce KH Chow, senior consultant of the Division of Surgical Oncology, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), the breakthroughs mean that liver cancer patients now have options to choose from.

The results of pivotal clinical trials for three classes of therapies in liver cancer were announced this year, together with major failures as well.

The three classes of therapy are immuno-therapy with check-point inhibitor drugs, selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) and levantinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI).

Chow is the protocol chair of the Asia-Pacific phase III trial in SIRT.

“For locally advanced liver cancer patients without metastases, SIRT has emerged as a safe alternative choice with significantly fewer adverse events. On top of that patients are treated with one-off, single dose therapy,” Chow told The Borneo Post after presenting his talk entitled ‘Treatment Advances in Hepatocellular Carcinoma’ during the recent 29th Malaysian Oncological Society (MOS) Annual Scientific Congress of MOS (Ascomos) 2017 at a leading hotel here.

He further explained that for patients with locally advanced or intermediate-stage HCC, overall survival did not significantly differ between SIRT and sorafenib (which is a previous therapy).

“However, SIRT offers a higher tumour response, better tolerance with less treatment-related adverse events, and a better quality of life over time than sorafenib. Further analyses will be required to evaluate prognostic factors, cost effectiveness and dose-related efficacy in the SIRT therapy,” he stressed.

As such, Chow believed that the breakthroughs achieved in 2017 will further fuel better survival chances for liver cancer patients in the near future.

Meanwhile, he advised young Malaysian doctors to further their studies in Asia-centric diseases in order to compete globally as Western medical doctors were less interested in such diseases.

“We should do such research to help our patients,” he pointed out.

Liver cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the world, but 80 per cent of liver cancer are found in the Asia-Pacific.

Chow, who grew up in Kuching, is instrumental in setting up the clinical trial for liver cancer patients at the Sarawak General Hospital using the ‘cutting-edge’ treatment of Yttrium-90 Resin Microspheres. Sarawak General Hospital was the first public hospital under the Ministry of Health Malaysia (MOH) in the country to be involved in the trial way back in 2015.

The clinical trial in SGH Kuching was led by Dr Law Chiong Soon, a Nuclear Medicine physician with the collaboration of Hepato-Pancreto-Billary surgeon Nik Azim Nik Abdullah, Interventional radiologist Dr Ahmad Faizal Mohammad Ali and Clinical oncologist Dr Yu Kong Leong.