Researchers to test new liver cancer treatment

Flinders University led team to trial new liver cancer treatment

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ON A MISSION: Professor Alan Wigg is leading a clinical trial of a new treatment method for liver cancer.

ON A MISSION: Professor Alan Wigg is leading a clinical trial of a new treatment method for liver cancer.


Liver cancer is notoriously hard to treat, but researchers hope that may change.


IT is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, but researchers hope a new type of treatment could give patients with liver cancers new hope.

Led by Flinders University Professor Alan Wigg, the team will trial a non-invasive treatment for people in the early-stage of inoperable disease.

The team has received $2 million in funding from the federal government to conduct the five year trial.

The project is a collaboration between leading hepatologists, radiation oncologists and radiologists across 16 major Australian liver centres and will see the new treatment trialled at sites all over the country.

It aims to test stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR) - a non-invasive method that enables high doses of radiation to be delivered with great precision.

The current standard treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, uses percutaneous ablation. This method uses extreme temperatures to directly target the tumour using a needle.

"Studies have shown the current standard of care is not always successful, with the cancer likely to re-occur in over 30 per cent of cases," Professor Wigg.

He said a number of people were unable to be treated using this method due to the size and location of their tumour.

"Stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy... is a relatively new radiation technique that has already been used successfully to treat a number of other cancers, but it is not yet widely used to treat cancers of the liver.

"It is delivered non-invasively by targeting the tumour with a number of radiation beams from different angles, allowing delivery of high dose and precise treatment across three to five sessions and reducing the damage to surrounding healthy tissue."

The randomised trial will compare the non-invasive treatment against the current invasive standard of care. The team hopes it may lead to changes to standard shift treatment protocols around the world.

The treatment is currently only used once standard treatment options have failed and is considered "experimental".

"Preliminary research has shown that the treatment has the potential to control tumours with very few adverse events and can reach those that would not be treatable with percutaneous ablation, due to a tumour's size or difficult location."

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