New hope for liver cancer patients in Singapore!

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There is a new treatment strategy for liver cancer patients in Singapore, who are unsuitable for surgery or a liver transplant! Read on...

Liver cancer patients in Singapore who are unsuitable for surgery or a liver transplant, now have hope. According to Channel NewsAsia, researchers are on the lookout for 40 such liver cancer patients for a 'first-in-the-world' trial led by the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS).

New treatment strategy for liver cancer patients in Singapore

Apparently, this new treatment strategy combines an immunotherapy drug with radioembolisation. It has generated a lot of hope, especially since liver cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Southeast Asia.

According to Dr Choo Soo Pin, senior consultant in the division of medical oncology at NCCS and lead principal investigator of the trial, if all goes well, cancer tumours could be reduced by up to 40 % using this pioneering approach.

The current approach involves Y90 radioembolisation. The new trial would be the first time in the world where an immunotherapy drug called Nivolumab would be used, in conjunction with radioembolisation.

NCCS says that, "Nivolumab has shown very promising results for advanced liver cancer patients in ongoing studies. The aim of this trial is to show that Nivolumab can enhance the effects of radioembolisation in liver cancer and further improve outcomes for patients."

Nivolumab works by enhancing the body's immune system and its response against cancer cells. NCCS adds that this drug, together with radiation is effective in shrinking tumour.

Details of the trial

  • The trial is expected to take 2 years to complete.
  • NCCS is looking for liver cancer patients who cannot be treated by surgery and are eligible for radioembolisation.
  • The trial is conducted in collaboration with the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN).
  • Those willing to participate in the trial may contact NCCS clinical trial office at chong.hui.shan@nccs.com.sg.

Causes and symptoms of liver cancer

What causes liver cancer exactly is largely unknown. But more than 70 % of the cases are a consequence of chronic infection with Hepatitis B. Here are some symptoms to be watched out for:

  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling very full after eating, even if the meal was small
  • Feeling sick and vomiting
  • Pain or swelling in the abdomen (tummy)
  • Jaundice (yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes)
  • Itchy skin
  • White, chalky stools
  • Feeling very tired and weak

Liver cancer risk factors

These are the factors known to increase the risk of liver cancer:

  • Obesity: Being obese can increase the chances of developing liver cancer, probably through development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and eventually, cirrhosis.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption: Consuming more than a moderate amount of alcohol daily over many years can lead to irreversible liver damage and increase the risk of liver cancer.
  • Diabetes: People with increased blood sugar have a greater risk of liver cancer than those who don't have diabetes.
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: An accumulation of fat in the liver increases the risk of liver cancer.
  • Smoking: Tobacco use may increase the risk of developing liver cancer.
  • Chronic infection with HBV or HCV: Chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) also increases risk of liver cancer.
  • Cirrhosis: This progressive and irreversible condition causes scar tissue to form in the liver and increases the probability of liver cancer.
  • Certain inherited liver diseases: Certain types of inherited metabolic diseases can cause cirrhosis and increase the chances of developing liver cancer.
  • Exposure to aflatoxins: These are cancer-causing substances made by a fungus that contaminates wheat, corn, soybeans, rice, and some types of nuts. Contamination usually occurs due to storage of the food stuff in a moist, warm environment, more common in warmer and tropical countries. Long-term exposure to aflatoxins is a major liver cancer risk factor, especially in people with HBV or HCV infections.

Prevention is better than cure

You may be able to reduce your chances of developing liver cancer by:

  • avoiding or cutting down on alcohol
  • eating healthily
  • exercising regularly
  • taking steps to reduce your risk of becoming infected with hepatitis B and C

Also READ: Parents lose child to liver cancer

(Source: Channel NewsAsia, mayoclinic.org, nhs.uk)

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