A trial comparing treatment for primary liver cancer that cannot be removed with surgery (TACE)

Cancer type:

Liver cancer




Phase 2

This trial compared 2 treatments called chemoembolisation and embolisation to see which was better at treating primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma).

Embolisation is a way of cutting off the cancer’s main blood supply. The doctor injects a substance that blocks the blood vessels to the area of the liver containing the cancer. This reduces the supply of oxygen and food to the cancer, and may make it shrink.

Chemoembolisation is similar to embolisation. But the doctors inject a chemotherapy drug called cisplatin a few hours before they inject the substance that blocks the blood vessels.

Doctors didn’t know whether chemoembolisation worked better than embolisation alone. The aim of this trial was to compare these two treatments to find out which worked best and to find out more about the side effects.

Summary of results

The trial team found it was possible to use chemoembolisation to treat liver cancer. They think it is better than embolisation but aren’t sure if it improves survival.

This was a phase 2 trial. It recruited 86 people. It was a randomised trial. The people taking part were put into 1 of 2 treatment groups. 81 of the 86 people had treatment

  • 43 had chemoembolisation
  • 38 had embolisation

At the end of treatment, the researchers looked at a scan of the liver to assess how well the cancer had responded. They found that in the group who had embolisation

  • 7 people had no sign of cancer – complete response
  • In 11 people the cancer had shrunk – partial response
  • In 4 the cancer stayed the same – stable disease
  • In 6 the cancer got worse

For the remaining 10 people, the scan results were  missing.

For those who had chemoembolisation

  • 13 people had no sign of cancer
  • In 16 people the cancer had shrunk
  • In 6 the cancer had stayed the same
  • In 2 the cancer had got worse

For the remaining 6 people the scan was missing.

After an average follow up of 2 years, the researchers found no difference between the 2 groups in the length of time people lived after treatment. They also found no difference in the length of time it took for the cancer to start growing again.

The worst side effects for people who had chemoembolisation were

The worst side effects for people who had embolisation were

  • A change to the way the liver worked
  • Pain
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Tiredness

The trial team concluded that chemoembolisation may be better than embolisation to treat liver cancer but they couldn’t conclude that it improved overall survival.  

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Prof Tim Meyer

Supported by

Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)
University College London (UCL)

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 783

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Wendy took part in a new trial studying the possible side effect of hearing loss

A picture of Wendy

"I was delighted to take part in a clinical trial as it has the potential to really help others in the future.”

Last reviewed:

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