Targeted therapy for primary liver cancer

People who have advanced HCC or are on a clinical trial may be offered a targeted therapy drug. These drugs attack specific particles within cancer cells that allow cancer to grow.

The drug sorafenib (brand name Nexavar) is the first targeted therapy drug approved for treatment of advanced HCC. It is taken by mouth, usually as two tablets twice a day. Your doctor will explain how to take it, and will adjust the dose if necessary.

The side effects of sorafenib may include skin rash, diarrhoea, fatigue and high blood pressure. These can usually be managed without having to completely stop treatment. It is important to have a plan for managing any side effects before starting treatment, and to stay in regular touch with your treatment team.

Generally, targeted therapy drugs are continued for as long as there is benefit. If liver cancer progresses despite treatment with sorafenib, your doctor may suggest another targeted therapy, but the cost may not be covered by Medicare. You might also be able to join a clinical trial to access new drugs.

Drug treatment for advanced HCC is changing quickly and new treatments may become available in the near future. These may include immunotherapy drugs, which use the body’s immune system to fight cancer. You can discuss the latest options with your treating specialist.


Listen to podcasts on New Cancer Treatments – Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy and Making Treatment Decisions


Video: What is targeted therapy?

Watch this short video to learn more about targeted and immunotherapy


This information was last reviewed in June 2018
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