Historically, standard chemotherapy drugs have not worked well against liver cancer, chiefly because one of the liver’s main jobs is to filter foreign substances out of the blood. However, several recently developed “targeted” drugs are leading to improved outcomes for patients with primary and metastatic liver cancer.
- Drug therapy for primary liver tumors: Several newer drugs target specific processes within cancer cells that are key to tumor growth and spread. For example, Sorafenib is an oral drug that inhibits a cancer cell molecule that is critical to the formation of new tumor blood vessels. It is typically used to treat inoperable primary liver cancer. Sorafenib does not make many liver cancers shrink, but it slows the growth of tumors and has been shown to extend patient survival.
- Drug therapy for colorectal metastases: By using a variety of treatment methods, cancer teams are often able to cure colorectal metastases or help patients live substantially longer. Drug therapy is an important element of these treatment plans, and newer chemotherapy methods for colorectal cancer have become increasingly effective. Following surgery to remove liver metastases, chemotherapy is often used to decrease the chance of tumor recurrence. Newer drug therapies are also able to shrink large metastases to the point where they can be removed surgically or destroyed with ablation.
- Drug therapy for other metastatic diseases: Drug options are also available for certain other cancers that have spread to the liver, such as breast cancer metastases and other diseases.
Researchers are continuously developing new drugs and drug treatment methods for patients with primary and metastatic liver cancer. See clinical trials for a complete list of liver cancer drug trials now available at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin.