Liver Cancer: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2015

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about HCC and how to treat it. To see other pages, use the menu on the side of your screen.

Doctors are working to learn more about HCC, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.

  • Cancer vaccines. These are treatments that may help the immune system recognize and attack HCC cells. Sometimes the vaccine is given with an immune system stimulant, such as sargramostim (Leukine, Prokine).

  • Combination chemotherapy. Different drugs destroy cancer cells in different ways. Using a combination of drugs can increase the chance more cancer cells will be destroyed. Many times, one drug will help the other drug work better.

  • Combining therapies. Researchers are looking into whether combining treatments, such as RFA and chemoembolization, is more effective than using these treatments separately.

  • Anti-angiogenesis drugs. In addition to sorafenib, which is discussed in the Treatment Options section, several other anti-angiogenic drugs are being tested in clinical trials.

  • Greater use of liver transplantation. Researchers are investigating the possibility of expanding the criteria for liver transplantation for HCC. This would make more patients eligible for the procedure.

  • Gene therapy. This new treatment changes a gene to fight cancer. Although gene therapy is in the very early stages of development, some clinical trials are already underway. In one example, the new gene makes chemotherapy work better. In this type of treatment, a gene can be directly injected into the tumor. The doctor then gives the patient an inactive drug, and the new gene helps activate the drug in the tumor. This approach is also being tested in combination with the other treatments as listed above.

  • Palliative care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current HCC treatments in order to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

Looking for more about the latest research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding liver cancer, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

  • To find clinical trials specific to your diagnosis, talk with your doctor or search online clinical trial databases now.

  • Listen to a podcast with Richard Goldberg, MD that highlights research on colorectal cancer, liver cancer, and cancers of the upper portion of the gastrointestinal tract presented at the 2012 ASCO Annual Meeting.

  • Visit ASCO’s CancerProgress.Net website to learn more about the historical pace of research for liver cancer. Please note this link takes you to a separate ASCO website.

  • Visit the website of the Conquer Cancer Foundation to find out how to help support research for every cancer type. Please note this link takes you to a separate ASCO website. 

The next section in this guide is Coping with Side Effects, and it offers some guidance in how to cope with the physical, emotional, and social changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. Or, use the menu on the side of your screen to choose another section to continue reading this guide.