Patients with advanced liver cancer may live longer if they receive a combination of a certain kind of chemotherapy and radiothermal treatment, according to a study released Tuesday.
The findings, published in the April 9 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association, could offer a breakthrough for treating liver cancer, which lacks a standard treatment, is often diagnosed in mid to late stages and is increasing worldwide.
Chinese researchers at Shandong University tested the potential of long term benefits when treating liver cancer tumors larger than three centimeters with a combination of a transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) and radiofrequency thermal ablation (RFA).
The team, led by Bao-Quan Cheng, studied 291 patients in China from January 2001 to May 2004. Some were given one therapy only, while others received combined treatment.
The follow-up showed that 69 percent of those in the combined group had died, compared to 84 percent in each group that received only one of the therapies.
"Survival rates were significantly better in the TACE-RFA group than in the TACE or RFA group," the study said, adding that the "lower rate of death in the TACE-RFA group was the result of fewer deaths due to tumor progression."
The study said: "Median (midpoint) survival times were 24 months in the TACE group, 22 months in the RFA group, and 37 months in TACE-RFA group."
The TACE type of chemotherapy combines "the effect of targeted chemotherapy with that of blocking the blood supply to the tumor," it said, while RFA involves "advancing a specially designed probe into the tumor and applying radiofrequency energy."