Biological therapy for liver cancer
This page tells you about biological therapy for primary liver cancer. You can find the following information
Biological therapy for primary liver cancer
Biological therapies are treatments that act on processes in cells or change the way that cells signal to each other. They can stimulate the body to attack or control the growth of cancer cells. Doctors may use a biological therapy called sorafenib (Nexavar) as a first treatment for people with advanced hepatocellular cancer (HCC). HCC is the most common type of liver cancer.
You take sorafenib as a tablet. You usually take it for as long as it controls the cancer and is not causing too many side effects. The side effects include diarrhoea, soreness and redness of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet (hand-foot syndrome), a rash or red itchy skin, tiredness, hair thinning, feeling sick, raised blood pressure, and an increased risk of bleeding (for example nosebleeds or bleeding gums).
Let your doctor or nurse know if you have any side effects as you may be able to have medicines to help control them.
A number of other biological therapies are being looked at in clinical trials for liver cancer.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating liver cancer section
Biological therapies are treatments that act on processes in cells or change the way that cells signal to each other. They can stimulate the body to attack or control the growth of cancer cells. A biological therapy called sorafenib (Nexavar) can help people with advanced liver cancer. Although it cannot cure the cancer, it may help to control it for some time.
Doctors may use sorafenib as a first treatment for people with advanced hepatocellular cancer (HCC). To have this treatment your liver must be working well.
Sorafenib is a type of cancer growth blocker called a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI). Tyrosine kinases are proteins that cells use to signal to each other to grow and divide. Sorafenib works in 2 ways. It stops
- Signals that tell cancer cells to grow
- Cancer cells forming new blood vessels, which they need to keep growing.
You take sorafenib as a tablet. You usually take it for as long as it controls the cancer and is not causing too many side effects.
Some of the most common side effects of sorafenib include
- Hand-foot syndrome – soreness and redness of the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
- A rash, or red, dry itchy skin
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Hair thinning
- Feeling sick
- Raised blood pressure (hypertension)
- Increased risk of bleeding such as nosebleeds or bleeding gums – if you notice blood in your stool (poo) or sick, contact your doctor or specialist nurse straight away
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any side effects as you may be able to have medicines to help control them.
Researchers are looking at some other biological therapies in trials for liver cancer. All new treatments have to go through the clinical trials process and this takes some years. Other biological therapies being looked at on their own or in combination with other treatments include
So far results from some trials into biological therapies have not been as promising as hoped. But researchers continue to investigate these types of drugs to improve treatment for liver cancer. There is information about research into biological therapies on the liver cancer research page.
To search for liver cancer trials, visit our clinical trials database.
We have detailed information about biological therapies. You can also ask your doctor or specialist nurse for written information.
You can email our cancer information nurses. Or call them from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, on freephone 0808 800 4040. They will be happy to help.
If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you can use CancerChat – our online forum.
Our liver cancer organisations page has details of organisations that can put you in touch with a cancer support group. Our liver cancer reading list has information about books, leaflets and CDs on cancer treatments.
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