Combining radiation and an
immunotherapy drug can
safely and effectively treat a
common but advanced liver
cancer, according to results of
a study by Singapore General
Hospital (SGH) and National Cancer Centre
Singapore (NCCS) researchers.
The study involved patients with advanced
hepatocellular carcinoma, which is the third
and fourth most common cause of cancer
deaths among men and women in Singapore
respectively. A large proportion of patients are
diagnosed at a stage when their cancer can no
longer be removed by surgery and treatment options are limited. This highlights an urgent
need to find new ways to improve survival for
patients with this disease.
Forty patients between the ages of 23
and 79 years were given immunotherapy
drug nivolumab and yttrium-90 resin
microspheres radioembolisation (Y90-RE), a
form of internal radiation therapy. Nivolumab
was given intravenously 21 days after Y90-RE
was administered, and then every two weeks
after. The treatment was halted when severe
toxicities developed or progressed.
The study found that the participants had an
overall response rate of 30.6 per cent, which rose
to 43.5 per cent for those with cancer limited only to the liver. The combination
therapy was also found to be safe
and tolerable, the study said.
“The findings of this study
augur well for advanced
liver cancer patients who are
faced with limited treatment
options. If the efficacy of this new
combination treatment is further
shown in studies from other countries,
it would benefit not only those in Singapore,
but the region as well, given that liver cancer is
a huge problem in this part of the world,” said
Clinical Associate Professor David Ng, Headand Senior Consultant, Department of NuclearMedicine and Molecular Imaging, SGH.
Clinical Associate Professor David Tai,
Senior Consultant, Division of Medical
Oncology, NCCS, and the Principal
Investigator of the study (pictured above), said, “The team’s
next step is to validate these findings in a
larger cohort of patients with advanced liver
cancer with no distant spread.”
The findings of the study were published
in The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology
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