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UA Cancer Center hits major milestone in liver cancer research

PHOENIX – University of Arizona Cancer Center has made huge strides with a new approach to treat liver cancer at the UA Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

Immunotherapy will be used for the first time in clinical trials to treat liver cancer. UA officials say this is a relatively new concept that activates the body’s own immune system to get an immune response to treat diseases such as advanced lung cancer, melanoma, kidney cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The clinical trial will be led by Mital Patel, a clinical assistant professor in internal medicine at the UA College of Medicine and a gastrointestinal medical oncologist at the Cancer Center.

The trial is accepting 480 patients from 17 nations. Organizers hope this trial will provide experts with information on how people around the world develop liver cancer. They will be randomized to receive Atezolizumab (PDL-1 inhibitor) in combination with Bevacizumab (anti-angiogenesis antibody).

The initial phases of the study found that a combination of the two drugs received a 61 percent response rate, which means 14 out of 23 patients responded positively to the treatment.

The drugs and the trial are being paid by sponsor Genentech. Genentech is a biotechnology company that develops, manufactures, and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious medical conditions.

In America, 33,000 people are diagnosed with liver cancer and 26,000 die from it.  According to William Cance, a deputy director at the UA Cancer Center liver cancer is “an aggressive disease with very few treatment options.”

Immunotherapy will be the first-line treatment for advanced and metastatic liver cancer in this trial. Cance says it will be a treatment option they never had before.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was written by News 4 Tucson staff Katelyn Berto.

Julia Leon

Julia Leon

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