Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Unique Dual Treatment For Liver Cancer Packs Curative Punch

Date:
June 10, 2005
Source:
University Of Michigan Health System
Summary:
It's been five years since Dave Smethurst had 10 tumors removed from his liver. After surgery, three remained, too difficult for surgeons to safely remove. The average patient lives less than six months with liver tumors that cannot be removed surgically. But after receiving a new type of treatment pioneered at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Smethurst has reached the magical five-year mark.

By carefully identifying through CT and MRI scans where the tumor is, radiation beams can be chosen that hit the tumor while sparing the normal liver tissue. A special planning technique is used that divides the liver into 2,000 to 2,500 small volumes and calculates the dose to each one that would result from a particular arrangement of radiation beams. This information is used to calculate the maximum safe dose of radiation that can be given. Because of its precision, Lawrence equates the technique to "surgery without a knife."
Credit: Image courtesy of University Of Michigan Health System

ANN ARBOR, MI -- It's been five years since Dave Smethurst had 10 tumors removed from his liver. After surgery, three remained, too difficult for surgeons to safely remove.

Related Articles


The average patient lives less than six months with liver tumors that cannot be removed surgically. But after receiving a new type of treatment pioneered at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Smethurst has reached the magical five-year mark.

"I guess I'm considered cured after five years -- that's kind of the gold standard for cancer patients. It's been five years now and I'm doing just fine," says Smethurst, 58.

The treatment, available only at U-M, involves an innovative method of delivering 400 times the normal amount of chemotherapy directly into the liver and combining that with state-of-the-art, specialized radiation therapy targeted directly at the tumors.

"On average, patients' lives are significantly prolonged, and I think, based on the evidence we have now, that some patients are cured. In the past, nobody was curable with unresectable disease," says Theodore Lawrence, M.D., Ph.D., Isadore Lampe Professor and Chair of Radiation Oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Most often, liver tumors originate as cancer in another part of the body and spread to the liver. Primary liver cancer, or cancer that starts in the liver, is among the most serious and deadly types of cancer. Typically, it's not discovered till an advanced stage because it causes few distinct symptoms. About 17,500 people are expected to be diagnosed with primary liver cancer this year, and 15,420 will die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.

Standard treatment for tumors that cannot be removed through surgery has been traditional intravenous chemotherapy, which is delivered through a vein to the entire body. The drugs are drawn to rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells. But cells that affect digestion and hair growth are also rapidly dividing and are affected as well, causing unpleasant side effects such as nausea and hair loss.

U-M researchers based their new treatment on the liver having two major blood supplies but needing only one. The tumor lives off one of the two blood supplies, and the artery feeding into the liver actually feeds the tumor's growth. With this treatment, the chemotherapy is infused directly into this artery so the drug goes directly to the tumors in the liver.

The liver is also where chemotherapy drugs are typically processed and removed from the blood supply. By targeting the drugs to the liver, very little of the drug travels throughout the body.

"With this approach, the tumor sees a much higher concentration of the drug. Despite the fact that we're giving a concentration of drug that's 400 times what the body would otherwise tolerate, the fact that the liver extracts or removes the drug means that the whole body sees a low concentration of drug," says William Ensminger, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and director of cancer pharmacology at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

For patients like Smethurst, that means minimal side effects, possibly nausea, diarrhea or a fever, but no hair loss.

The chemotherapy is given 24 hours a day for two weeks with twice-daily radiation treatments occurring at the same time. The patient then gets a two-week break before repeating the chemotherapy and radiation combination for another two weeks.

By carefully identifying through CT and MRI scans where the tumor is, radiation beams can be chosen that hit the tumor while sparing the normal liver tissue. A special planning technique is used that divides the liver into 2,000 to 2,500 small volumes and calculates the dose to each one that would result from a particular arrangement of radiation beams. This information is used to calculate the maximum safe dose of radiation that can be given. Because of its precision, Lawrence equates the technique to "surgery without a knife."

"We treat the tumor with cross-firing beams that build up the dose on the tumor but spare the surrounding tissues. We can calculate exactly how much radiation we're giving to the normal liver. We continue to refine our treatment until we've minimized the dose to the normal liver and to the other critical, normal structures, but we've maximized the dose to the tumor," Lawrence says.

For Smethurst, who remains cancer-free, the opportunity to be part of this novel technique fed his hopeful attitude and positive outlook throughout treatment.

"There's just tons of cancer research going on all over this country, and that really gives a lot of hope to cancer patients, knowing that literally tomorrow a drug may be approved for treatment that will save your life," he says.

Symptoms of liver cancer

Liver cancer is often not diagnosed till advanced stages because the symptoms are difficult to recognize. Some signs of liver cancer are:

* Pain, especially in the abdominal area or around the right should blade

* Unexplained weight loss

* Loss of appetite

* Pain or swelling in the upper right area of the abdomen

* Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes

Resources

U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center: http://www.cancer.med.umich.edu/learn/liver.htm

National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/liver/

American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/lrn/lrn_0.asp

U-M Cancer AnswerLine: 800-865-1125


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Michigan Health System. "Unique Dual Treatment For Liver Cancer Packs Curative Punch." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 June 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050607004547.htm>.
University Of Michigan Health System. (2005, June 10). Unique Dual Treatment For Liver Cancer Packs Curative Punch. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050607004547.htm
University Of Michigan Health System. "Unique Dual Treatment For Liver Cancer Packs Curative Punch." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050607004547.htm (accessed March 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could a $34 Smartphone Device Improve HIV Diagnosis in Africa?

Could a $34 Smartphone Device Improve HIV Diagnosis in Africa?

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Feb. 27, 2015) A dongle that plugs into a Smartphone mimics a lab-based blood test for HIV and syphilis and can detect the diseases in 15 minutes, say researchers. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor Says Head Transplants Possible Within Two Years

Doctor Says Head Transplants Possible Within Two Years

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) An Italian doctor is saying he could stick someone&apos;s head onto someone else&apos;s body. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) reports. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Dentist Could Help Screen You For Diabetes

How Your Dentist Could Help Screen You For Diabetes

Newsy (Feb. 27, 2015) A new study from researchers at New York University suggests dentists could soon use blood samples taken from patients&apos; mouths to test for diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Tips to Makeover Your Health

The Best Tips to Makeover Your Health

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) If you&apos;re looking to boost your health this season, there are a few quick and easy steps to prompt you for success. Krystin Goodwin (@Krystingoodwin) has the best tips to give your health a makeover this spring! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins