New liver cancer treatment; the current picture

In June, 2000, the Adelaidean reported on promising trials of a new technique to treat patients suffering from cancers of the liver. The researchers have now presented the preliminary results of those trials to the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (South Australia).

The surgical team, led by Professor Guy Maddern from Adelaide University's Department of Surgery, developed the technique of inserting electrodes into the tumours and surrounding liver tissue, and then passing small electric currents through them.

This process, termed electrolysis, destroys tumour and liver tissue in much the same way as electrolysis destroys the follicles of unwanted hair. It affects much less normal liver tissue than surgery of a more conventional kind, in which tumours are cut from the liver.

The ten patients treated so far in the ongoing trial at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital had all been evaluated as unsuitable for conventional surgical treatment due to the extent of their tumours. Nine were patients whose colonic cancers had spread to the liver, while one was treated for cancer of the liver itself.

The average follow-up time for the patients was 9 months; the shortest time being 6 months and the longest 43 months. 8 of the 10 patients showed no evidence of residual tumour at the treatment site. 5 of these 8 patients had developed new areas of tumour spread, but 3 showed no evidence of tumour recurrence.

There has been considerable worldwide interest in the trials following the initial release of the story. The Department is continuing to treat new patients using the technique, but Dr Benjamin Teague, Research Registrar in the Department of Surgery, cautions that patients must meet a number of criteria to be considered for treatment.

"They must be fit for major surgery," said Dr Teague," which means having no significant medical conditions that would make them unsuitable for a general anaesthetic

Contact: Prof Guy Maddern
Adelaide University

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