New Research on Liver Cancer

The scientific community is continually advancing research on new treatments for cancer. Here is some of the research that is being done on liver cancer.
New Research on Liver Cancer

Last update: 27 October, 2021

Hepatocellular carcinoma, or liver cancer, develops from a chronic liver disease caused by multiple risk factors. It has a strong association with chronic hepatitis B and C virus (HBV and HCV) infections.

Chronic hepatitis infections may also come with other risk factors, such as hepatitis D virus (HDV) coinfection. Alcohol use and smoking may present an increased risk of liver cancer.

Let’s take a close look.

What’s liver cancer?

The liver is one of the largest organs in the body. It’s located in the upper right part of the abdomen. It’s made up of two lobes: right and left. The right side is the largest.

There are different types of cells in the liver. Mainly, the organ is made up of hepatocytes, but we also find cells that line the blood vessels or cells that cover the ducts through which bile circulates.

symptoms of liver cancer

Depending on the type of cell that is altered, we can find different types of tumors in the liver. These may have a different prognosis and treatment.

However, what’s common to all types of tumors is that the cells that form them are abnormal. These have mutated and, as a consequence, their growth and division have gotten out of control.

Liver cancer treatments

The treatments for hepatocellular carcinoma are many and varied. They depend fundamentally on the type of cancer and its stage. Additionally, researchers are continually trying to improve such treatments.

Prevention

In the fight to fight liver cancer,  prevention naturally plays a very important role. In fact, almost half of the cases of hepatocellular carcinoma could be prevented thanks to vaccines and improved treatments against hepatitis, the main risk factor for liver cancer.

Currently, new and improved methods of prevention of hepatitis C and B are being investigated, as well as new treatments to prevent these diseases that may lead to liver cancer.

On the other hand, another risk factor for liver carcinoma is cirrhosis. Liver cirrhosis is a chronic disease that occurs as a result of ongoing damage to the liver. This damage usually comes from either infection with the hepatotropic virus or from excessive alcohol consumption.

The result of liver cirrhosis is that healthy liver tissue is replaced by fibrous tissue. This is similar to scar tissue. This type of environment in the liver greatly favors the appearance of abnormal cells, which could lead to a tumor.

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Cancer vaccines

This type of treatment aims to immunize the body against tumor cells. In this way, it’s possible to help the immune system in its task of recognizing and destroying cancer cells.

Another objective of this treatment is to stimulate the immune system, something that’s achieved with a drug called sargramostim. It’s capable of stimulating the production and function of immune cells.

Antiangiogenic drugs

Anti-angiogenic therapies target the blood vessels that grow around the existing tumor. Tumors that arise in the liver need to form new blood vessels to get nourishment and grow beyond a certain size.

These types of therapies act by preventing the formation of these new vessels. Some of these drugs, such as sorafenib or regorafenib, are already being used in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinomas.

Currently, new antiangiogenic drugs are being developed and their effectiveness is being studied when combined with other types of treatments.

Gene therapy

Knowledge about the genes involved in different types of cancer is also increasing. This would allow gene therapy to know where are the gene alterations must be corrected to prevent the appearance of cancer.

In this way, thanks to genetic modification technologies, it would be possible to suppress the protein expression of certain oncogenes, which is responsible for the disease.

However, this type of treatment is still in its experimental phase. It still needs to be refined quite a bit to have a real application in humans.

On the other hand, another of the emerging therapies in this field is based on the genetic modification of the tumor cells themselves. These modifications aim to make cancer cells susceptible to certain drugs. Meanwhile, normal, unmodified cells would not be affected by the drug.

Finally, researchers are also testing inactive chemotherapeutic agents. These would be harmless for healthy cells. However, but when they reach tumor cells, they would be effective and destroy only bad cells.

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