According to results recently presented at the 2006 Shanghai-Hong Kong International Liver Congress, the addition of the immune-stimulating agent Zadaxin® (thymalfasin) to trans-arterial chemoembolization (TACE) improves survival over TACE alone in the treatment of liver cancer.
The most common type of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), is characterized by cancer that starts in cells of the liver and can spread through blood and lymph vessels to different parts of the body.
The liver is the largest organ in the body and is responsible for over 500 functions. These include the secretion of glucose, proteins, vitamins, and fats; the production of bile; the processing of hemoglobin; and the detoxification of numerous substances.
Patients with small HCC tumors (particularly those less than 3 centimeters in diameter) have several potential treatment options. Choice of treatment is determined by the extent of spread of cancer (even if it is confined within the liver), the size of the cancer, and the location of the cancer (cancers in the liver are often attached to or dangerously close to important vessels).
Researchers continue to compare different treatment regimens and compile long-term data for patients with HCC treated with different therapeutic approaches. This information may help individualize treatment according to patient and disease characteristics.
TACE is a type of therapy in which the blood flow to the cancer is blocked and cancer cells are deprived of oxygen and nutrients. Chemotherapy is then administered directly into the site of cancer.
Zadaxin is an agent that is not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is a compound that stimulates the immune system to help fight cancer.
Researchers from the California Pacific Medical Center conducted a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of Zadaxin when used with TACE in the treatment of HCC. This trial included 25 patients who were treated with either Zadaxin/TACE or TACE alone.
The addition of Zadaxin improved survival:
- The median overall survival was 994 days for patients treated with Zadaxin/TACE.
- The median overall survival was only 399 days for patients treated with TACE only.
- There were no serious side effects associated with the use of Zadaxin.
The researchers concluded that the addition of Zadaxin to TACE significantly improves survival compared to TACE alone in the treatment of HCC. Patients with HCC who are to undergo TACE may wish to speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial further evaluating Zadaxin or other promising therapeutic approaches.
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