Treatment of Liver Cancer

Different types of liver cancer treatments are available for adult patients with primary liver cancer.

There are many standard liver cancer treatments available, meaning that they are common for patient treatment. In the past decade, there has not been much change to the outcome of surgery, though advance in surgical technology is incredible. Robotic Surgery is minimally invasive, allowing for patients to have a quicker recovery time and less time in the hospital. Chemotherapy options have grown and new biologic therapy’s are in clinical trial stage. The options to choose from vary depending on stage of the cancer, reoccurrence and medical history.  There is no shortage to liver cancer treatment options in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Surgery for liver cancer:

Surgery is done in our local hospitals, John Muir Concord, John Muir Walnut Creek and San Ramon Regional. The phsycians at Diablo Valley Oncology have permissions at each of these hospitals, allowing them to work closely with your surgeon. Including robotic surgery options, the following types of surgery are for liver cancer treatments:
  • Cryosurgery  or cryotherapy is a treatment that uses an instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue. Cryosurgery can be an options for patient’s whose liver cancer has not spread. This may be done in conjunction with radiation treatment.
  • Partial hepatectomy is the partial removal of the liver, only where cancer is found. This process involves removal of the cancer, along with a margin of healthy liver tissue to ensure that no cancer is left behind. Remarkably, the remaining liver tissue takes over the functions that was once done by the entire liver.
  • Total hepatectomy and liver transplant is the removal of the entire liver and replacement with a healthy liver. Liver transplants are an option when cancer is in the liver only and a donation liver is available. If a patient must wait for a liver to become available other treatment options may help until that point.
  • Radiofrequency ablation is the use of a special probe with tiny electrodes that kill cancer cells. Inserting of a probe directly through the skin or through an incision in the abdomen. Typically this treatment takes under 90 minutes and patients can return home the same day.

Radiation Therapy for liver cancer:

Radiation therapy is another treatment option sometimes given in conjunction with other treatments.  It uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. The type of radiation therapy is given depends on the stage of the cancer. Your radiation oncologist will provide you with guidance on which is the best option for you. At Diablo Valley Oncology our radiation therapists work alongside medical oncologist and surgeons to ensure you have the best treatment plan. Our medical oncology and radiation oncology clinic’s are located in the same building in Pleasant Hill for ease of treatment.
  • External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer.
  • Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters directly into or near the cancer.
  • Drugs known as radiosensitizers could be given in conjunction to make the cancer cells more sensitive to radiation therapy.
  • Radio labeled antibodies can be a guide for the Radiation to the tumor . Radioactive substances are attach to antibodies made in the laboratory. These antibodies, which target tumor cells, are given by injection into the body and the tumor cells are die by the radioactive substance.

Chemotherapy for liver cancer.

Chemotherapy is a liver cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. The drugs are able to stop cancer cell growth and kill existing cancer cells. You medical oncologist will provide you with guidance on which treatment type and specific chemotherapy will be the best choice for you. Systemic chemotherapy simply means that it is taken by mouth or by injection into a vein or muscle. The drugs then enter the bloodstream and reach cancer cells throughout the body. Regional chemotherapy can be put directly into the a portion of the body, such as the liver, allowing the drugs to affect cancer cells only in that area. Localizing the application of treatment helps to reduce some side effects and deliver treatment right to the cancer. Regional therapy is the primary method for treating liver cancer, by placing a small pump containing anti-cancer drugs onto the body. The pump administers chemotherapy drugs into the blood vessels that go to the tumor. Often the pump requires less doctors visits and time in the clinic.

Chemo-embolization for liver cancer.

Another type of regional chemotherapy is chemo-embolization of the hepatic artery. During this process, an injection of the anti-cancer drug is made into the hepatic artery through a thin tube. Chemotherapy and a substance that blocks the artery are injected and cut off blood flow to the tumor. By doing this, a majority of the anticancer drug is kept near the tumor, allowing only a small amount of the drug reaches other parts of the body. The chemical blockage may be temporary or permanent, depending on the substance used to block the artery. The tumor is kept from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow. The liver continues to receive blood from the hepatic portal vein, which carries blood from the stomach and intestine. Your liver is left unaffected, as much as possible.

Percutaneous Ethanol Injection

Percutaneous ethanol injection is a cancer treatment in which a small needle injects ethanol directly into a tumor to kill cancer cells. The procedure is done once or twice a week. Usually local anesthesia is givne, but if the patient has many tumors in the liver, general anesthesia can be a substitute.

Clinical Trials

A clinical trial is a research study to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment often replaces that option. Some patients electively participate in new clinical trails. Restrictions for criteria for being eligible do apply, such as clinical trials that only include patients not had prior treatment. Other trials test treatments are specifically for patients whose cancer has not gotten better. There clinical trials that test new ways to stop cancer from recurring or reduce side effects of cancer treatment.

Hyperthermia Therapy

Hyperthermia therapy is a treatment in which body tissue has exposure to high temperatures to damage and kill cancer cells or to make cancer cells more sensitive to the effects of radiation and certain anticancer drugs. Liver cancer cells are more sensitive to heat than normal cells are, which causes the cancer cells die and the tumor to shrink.

Biologic Therapy

Biologic therapy is a treatment that uses the own individual’s immune system to fight their cancer. Substances made by the body, or a laboratory are given to the patient through infusion. They work to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also known as biotherapy or immunotherapy.


Tests that were done to diagnose the cancer may be redone to see how well the treatment is working. The results of these tests help to form decisions about whether to continue, change, or stop treatment. Test results are helpful to show if your condition has improved or if the cancer has come back. It is important that you discuss liver cancer treatments with your medical oncologist, radiation oncologist or surgeon in detail. By knowing what new options, clinical trials or standard treatments are available, you can feel confident in the decision that you make. The phsycians at Diablo Valley Oncology are multi-speciality and work closely with the phsycians in our community to provide the best patient treatment available. Individuals can contact us to request an appointment with one of the oncologists at Diablo Valley Oncology discuss the liver cancer treatments available. Are you looking into a second opinon? Our phsycians are glad to meet with you and look over your treatment plans to see if they are the best option for your care.