BOSTON (Reuters Health) – A preliminary report from the Liver Cancer Network shows that liver cancer is increasing at the fastest rate of any other cancer in the US.
Hepatitis C infection is involved in more than half of liver cancer cases, researchers said here Monday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
In presenting the early data, Dr. Alex S. Befeler of St. Louis University, Missouri, noted that the Network was established because of a dearth of information about the extent of liver cancer.
The Network has currently enrolled approximately 250 patients to date from 6 centers to study demographics, risk factors for liver cancer, liver disease, tumor characteristics and different treatments.
The average age of the patients was 59 years and 75 percent are male. Eighty percent Caucasian, 10 percent African American, 4 percent Hispanic and 4 percent East Asian.
Most liver cancer patients (87 percent) had underlying liver disease and more than half (52 percent) of those enrolled had hepatitis C infection. A history of alcohol abuse was involved in 20 percent of those cases.
Liver cancer “in the US is almost always associated with chronic liver disease,” the Network data show.
Survival is “significantly better for those who were asymptomatic at presentation or who were candidates for liver transplantation,” Befeler said.
The bottom line is that “chemotherapy is generally ineffective for liver cancer. Liver transplantation is the best approach…Most patients also have advanced cirrhosis, so drug metabolism is poor,” Befeler added.