A new treatment for liver cancer, which isolates the organ and protects healthy parts of the body, has been shown to be effective in nearly 90% of patients.
The procedure developed in the UK at Southampton University Hospital involves using two small balloons to divert blood from the liver for an hour while delivering drugs directly into the organ.
The technique, known as chemosaturation therapy or percutaneous hepatic perfusion (PHP), allows doctors to deliver much larger doses of the drug than patients would receive with standard chemotherapy because it does not enter the skin. blood circulation and does not cause unnecessary damage to healthy parts of the body.
After the drug has been delivered, blood from the liver is drained from the patient and processed through a filtration machine to reduce toxicity before being returned to the patient via the jugular vein.
Consultant interventional radiologist Dr. Brian Stedman said his team performed 300 chemosaturation treatments on 100 patients whose form of eye cancer called ocular melanoma had spread to the liver.
In a study published in the journal Melanoma Research, the team found that liver cancers were controlled in 88.9% of patients who received chemosaturation therapy, with 62% surviving for a year and 30% after. two years.
A spokesperson for the PLANETS cancer charity, which helped fund the research, said the average survival time for those studied was 15 months but, in some cases, continued cycles of chemosaturation treatment have almost completely eliminated patients’ cancers.
He added: “However, although it was included in the treatment options available by the National Institute for Excellence in Health and Care (Nice) last year, there are currently no services commissioned by the NHS.”
Dr Stedman, who is a co-founder of PLANETS, said: “When we first tested this treatment on two patients in 2012, I said the development would be a watershed moment in cancer care and it really turned out to be, given these results.
“This treatment allows us to cut an organ from the body for 60 minutes, soak it in a heavy dose of medicine and then filter the blood almost completely clean before returning it, and its arrival was much needed.
“The outlook for patients specifically with cancer that has spread to the liver is notoriously poor because the effect of standard chemotherapy is limited by the unwanted damage the drug does to the rest of the body.
“Chemosaturation therapy offers the possibility of repeat intervention and these results demonstrate that it provides excellent short- to medium-term disease control with improved survival.”
Study co-author Neil Pearce, consultant hepatobiliary surgeon and co-founder of PLANETS, said: “While we currently only have evidence for this treatment in liver cancer that has spread to From the eye, these findings may now open the door to future studies with other hard-to-treat cancers affecting the liver and we are exploring potential new research trials.
“There has also been limited research and case reports of other cancers – including bowel, breast, pancreatic and neuroendocrine – from international centers that suggest potential benefit but should be evaluated more formally. in large clinical trials.
“But these findings show that there is real potential for this treatment to expand to more common cancers, which is very exciting.”