Liver Cancer: Latest Research

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done to learn more about liver cancer and how to treat it. Use the menu to see other pages.

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

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

  • Combining systemic cancer medications. Different drugs destroy cancer cells in different ways. Using a combination of drugs can increase the chance that more cancer cells will be destroyed. Many times, 1 drug will help another drug work better.

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

  • Anti-angiogenesis drugs. In addition to sorafenib and regorafenib, which are discussed in Types of Treatment, several other anti-angiogenic drugs are being studied 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 listed above.

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

Looking for More About the Latest Research?

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

The next section in this guide is Coping with Treatment. It offers some guidance on how to cope with the physical, emotional, social, and financial changes that cancer and its treatment can bring. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.