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Promising New Liver Cancer Treatment in Clinical Trials

A promising new melanoma liver cancer treatment directs therapy directly at the liver. The procedure, percutaneous hepatic perfusion, or PHP, targets tumors with a dose of chemotherapy 10 times stronger than patients could tolerate intravenously. Doctors use a specially designed system of catheters and filters to apply the cancer-fighting drug only to the liver, reducing the risk of damaging nearby organs and minimizing possible side effects.

The liver is resilient and unlike other organs can tolerate large amounts of chemotherapy. It is one of the largest organs in the body and is essential for general health. The liver removes harmful material from the blood, aids in digestion of food and converts food into nutrients for a healthy and active life. However, cancer can severely impair the liver’s ability to perform these crucial functions, and often times when cancer originates in or spreads to the liver, the tumors in the liver can lead to death. When cancer originates in the liver it is called primary liver cancer. Cancer that has spread to the liver from other parts of the body is called secondary, or metastatic, cancer in the liver.

Doctors say PHP is an important step because people who have melanoma liver cancer usually don’t live very long. Slightly fewer than 70,000 new cases of this type of cancer will be diagnosed this year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Although it is not the most common of all skin cancers, it is the most deadly. Ocular melanoma is much rarer, with about 2,500 new cases detected each year. The cancer is often lethal if it spreads to the liver, which is the most common site for it to metastasize.

During the procedure, patients receive doses of a drug called melphalan for 30 minutes every four weeks. The treatment takes place in an operating room while the patient is under an anesthetic. The chemo drug is delivered by a catheter that is threaded up a major artery in the patient’s groin into the main artery that goes into the liver. Another catheter is placed in the major vein behind the liver, and balloons on the catheter are inflated to direct all the blood flowing out of the liver into a filter outside the body. This filter system removes almost 90 percent of the chemotherapy from the blood, and the blood is then given back to the patient through a catheter placed in a large vein in the neck.

For more information on the clinical trial please see: http://www.livercancertrials.com/

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