Targeted therapy for primary liver cancer
This is a type of drug treatment that attacks specific features of cancer cells to stop the cancer growing and spreading. People who have advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and meet certain criteria may be offered targeted therapy drugs such as sorafenib or lenvatinib. These are given as tablets that you swallow. Your doctor will explain how to take them.
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What are the possible side effects?
The side effects of sorafenib and lenvatinib 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. Your treatment team will monitor you while you are taking targeted therapy drugs.
How long will you have it?
Generally, targeted therapy is continued for as long as there is benefit. If liver cancer progresses despite treatment with sorafenib or lenvatinib, your doctor may suggest another targeted therapy, but the cost may not be subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. 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 stimulate the body’s immune system to fight cancer. You may also be able to get new drugs through clinical trials. Talk to your doctor about the latest developments and whether there are any suitable clinical trials for you.
Video: What is targeted therapy?
Dr David Yeo, Hepatobiliary/Transplant Surgeon, Royal Prince Alfred, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Cancer Centre and St George Hospitals, NSW; Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Michael Coulson, Consumer; Dr Sam Davis, Interventional Radiologist, Staff Specialist, Royal Brisbane and Women‘s Hospital, QLD; Prof Chris Karapetis, Network Clinical Director (Cancer Services), Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, Head, Department of Medical Oncology, Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University, SA; Dr Howard Liu, Radiation Oncologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Lina Sharma, Consumer; Dr Graham Starkey, Hepato-Biliary and General Surgeon, Austin Hospital, VIC; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital and Health Services, ACT; Dr Michael Wallace, Western Australia Liver Transplant Service, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA.
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