Clinical trial brings hope to liver cancer patients

Cai Wenjun
Trial shows combined use of two antibodies can reduce the risk of relapse by 28 percent.
Cai Wenjun

A clinical trial of the combined use of two anti-cancer monoclonal antibodies for patients who have had surgery for liver cancer indicated it can reduce the risk of relapse by 28 percent, said local medical experts who participated the trial.

The majority of liver cancer patients can suffer a relapse after undergoing surgery, so they need an effective adjuvant therapy to reduce early relapses and improve survival.

A total of 668 patients participated in the trial with more than 70 percent from the Asian Pacific region including China.

The combined use of Atezolizumab and Bevacizumab, both monoclonal antibodies, was trialed during the research.

Liver cancer is the fourth most prevalent cancer and the second cause of cancer death in China. There are more than 400,000 new liver cancers reported in China each year, accounting for 45.3 percent of the global total, and the subsequent death case accounts for 47.1 percent of the global fatalities.

Surgery and radiofrequency ablation are the major treatments for early-stage liver cancer, but the high relapse rate after surgery is the top concern in the medical field. Up to 60 percent of patients receiving surgery can suffer a relapse and the five-year survival rate is only 50 to 60 percent, said Dr Fan Jia, president of Shanghai's Zhongshan Hospital.

"About 77 percent of liver cancers in China are related to hepatitis B infection and most patients have no typical symptoms in the early stage and usually have poor treatment effects. Most patients are not diagnosed until in the middle or late stage, missing their best chance for surgery. Even after receiving surgery, they are likely to have a relapse so an adjuvant therapy reducing relapse is extremely helpful," Fan said.

The clinical trial was the first-ever positive Phase III trial in the adjuvant liver cancer setting, and research showed that Atezolizumab in combination with Bevacizumab could increase the immunity response for liver cancer patients after receiving surgery or ablation, confirming the theory that combined immunotherapy could prevent and reduce relapses. This news brings hope to patients, experts said.

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