Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Advances in Liver Cancer Therapy

Liver Cancer  is the sixth most common cancer in the world in terms of incidence, accounting for approximately 630 thousand new cases per year. In addition, Liver Cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death. The greatest risk factors for HCC are the chronic infections caused by hepatitis B and C viruses, which increase the risk of developing the cancer by about 20 times. The standard treatment in the early stages of the disease, such as surgical resection and liver transplantation, are able to cure a minority of patients. Unfortunately, most cases of Liver Cancer are diagnosed in advanced stages, making these cancers beyond the scope of any treatment. In these advanced stages, systemic treatments are commonly used. Unfortunately, chemotherapy with conventional cytotoxic agents is ineffective and does not seem to modify the natural history of disease. Treatment options for patients with advanced liver cancers are extremely limited, but the identification of signaling pathways, in other words identification of those proteins which are specifically involved with initiation and progression of the liver cancer, and the recognition of the role of these pathways that include these specific proteins in the pathogenesis of the disease resulted in the development of drugs directed at specific therapeutic targets. One such drug is Sorafenib, a kinase inhibitor with antiangiogenic and antiproliferative properties. In conclusion, Sorafenib has demonstrated survival benefits in patients with advanced Liver cancer, thus representing a new standard reference for systemic treatment in these cases. To understand better about molecular targeted therapy or specific therapeutic target I will simplify it here for those who are not aware of it: 

Targeted cancer therapies are drugs or other substances that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules involved in tumor growth and progression. Because scientists often call these molecules “molecular targets,” targeted cancer therapies are sometimes called “molecularly targeted drugs,” “molecularly targeted therapies,” or other similar names. By focusing on molecular and cellular changes that are specific to cancer, targeted cancer therapies may be more effective than other types of treatment, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy and less harmful to normal cells.

Many targeted cancer therapies have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of specific types of cancer. Others are being studied in clinical trials (research studies with people), and many more are in preclinical testing (research studies with animals).

Targeted cancer therapies are being studied for use alone, in combination with other targeted therapies, and in combination with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.

Molecular Targeted Therapies are likely to prove as best treatment modalities in future not only for Liver but most of the cancer types. Though it is still in early stage and cost is a major issue. Lets hope for the best.   

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