New trial aims to test non-invasive treatment for early-stage liver cancer

Researchers are set to test a non-invasive treatment for inoperable early-stage liver cancer, thanks to an injection of more than $2 million in federal government funding.

Led by Professor Alan Wigg of Flinders University College of Medicine and Public Health, the trial aims to test stereotactic ablative body radiation therapy (SABR), a non-invasive technique that delivers high doses of radiation very precisely. .

Currently, the standard of care for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, is percutaneous ablation therapy, a thermal ablation treatment (using extreme temperatures to remove the cancer) that is given directly into the tumor using a needle. .

“Studies have shown that the current standard of care is not always effective, with cancer likely to come back in over 30% of cases, and a number of people not having access to treatment in the first place, due to the size and position of the tumour,” explains Professor Wigg.

“Stereotactic ablative body radiation therapy, on the other hand, is a relatively new radiation therapy technique that has already been used successfully to treat a number of other cancers, but it is not yet widely used to treat liver cancers. .

“It is delivered non-invasively by targeting the tumor with a number of beams of radiation from different angles, allowing delivery of a high dose and precise treatment over three to five sessions and reducing tissue damage. healthy surroundings.”

The project, a collaboration between leading haematologists, radiation oncologists and radiologists at 16 leading Australian liver centres, will carry out a randomized controlled trial to compare non-invasive treatment to the current invasive standard of care, with the possibility that the results modify the treatment. global protocols.

Currently, SBRT is considered experimental and is only used after first-line treatments have failed. However, preliminary research has shown that the treatment has the potential to control tumors with very few adverse effects and can reach those that would not be treatable by percutaneous ablation, due to the size or difficult location of a tumor. tumor.

Professor Alan Wigg, Faculty of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University

Researchers say that with the rise in liver cancer rates in Australia, it is essential that the best treatment is proven and applied.

“Rates of hepatocellular carcinoma have risen 378% over the past 30 years, the second highest increase of any cancer type, while its death rate has seen the highest increase of any cancer,” says the Professor Wigg.

“HCC is the only low-survival cancer whose incidence is increasing rapidly. It is therefore essential that we find ways to improve patient outcomes.

“SABR may improve tumor control while being able to be administered on an outpatient basis over fewer treatment sessions, which means it is also likely to be cost effective and capable of rapid adoption into clinical practice. “

The 5-year trial will begin this year with trial sites planned in all major states in Australia.

The project, A randomized controlled trial of Sstandard OF VSare against RbyeAblahJions in Eearly SHCC study (SOCRATES HCC study), was funded by the Rare Cancers, Rare Diseases and Unmet Needs Program of the Medical Research Future Fund.

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