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Combo Treatment for Liver Cancer Is Effective

High-Tech Approach Zaps Liver Tumors and Works as Well as Surgery
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Liver Cancer Up in U.S. continued...

Yet one of the most serious complications of chronic hepatitis C infection is liver cancer, also called hepatocellular carcinoma. Surgery can be done in only a few people in the hopes of curing liver cancer, yet because many people with this cancer have other medical conditions surgery can be risky.

In the study, presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology, 33 people all with a solitary liver cancer mass were treated with the combination of noninvasive technique. They were compared with 40 other victims of liver cancer who had their tumors removed by surgery.

After a year 97% of those that underwent treatment with the combination technique and 81% of those in the surgery group were alive, which indicates that embolization does a little better early on, says Covey.

At five years, 56% in the embolization group and 57% in the surgery group were still alive. This is good news because the group that received the combination technique usually were sicker than the surgery patients yet survival was still the same, she says.

Robert Vogelzang, MD, professor of radiology at Northwestern University in Chicago tells WebMD that Covey's work and that of other interventional radiologists "represent the new paradigm for treating liver cancers. We are demonstrating that we can improve patient outcome and get results that are at least as good as surgery, without the risks of surgery." Vogelzang, was involved in Covey's study.

Vogelzang tells WebMD that his center is achieving similar results using another type of embolization technique called chemoembolization, in which chemotherapy drugs are injected directly into the tumor. This treatment technique is also combined with radiofrequency ablation in a similar one-two punch approach.

Covey says her center prefers bland embolization because it "doesn't carry the toxic effects associated with chemotherapy." Those effects include nausea, fatigue, and hair loss. But Covey says she agrees that chemoembolization is also effective.

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