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What’s New With Liver Cancer

A new line of chemotherapy with less chemotherapy side effects involves an enzyme, which is responsible for the continuous cell division of liver cancer cells.

It is called telomerase and is important for forming the cell spindle within a rapidly dividing cancer cell.

The authors of Ref. 4 have shown that a telomerase inhibitor (sodium butyrate) can effectively bring cell division to a standstill in the laboratory. In the next few years there will likely be a number of new medications that will come out of this line of work and will be used to treat end stage liver cancer in this way by simply suppressing cell divisions of the liver cancer cells. Here is an article (thanks to for this link) that show a good response in human liver cancer patients (note that “hepatoma” used in this article and “hepatocellular cancer” are synonymous).

Summary regarding liver cancer

Liver cancer is a particularly vicious cancer. It seems to affect patients who are already pre-damaged with cirrhosis of the liver, either from chronic hepatitis or from alcohol abuse. In these patients the immune system is already weakened and the metabolism is often compromised from the end stage cirrhosis. The best treatment results occur when a liver transplant is given, where the diseased liver is removed with liver cancer. 5-year survivals of 75% with stage I liver cancer can be achieved this way with an acceptable mortality rate of less than 10% from the surgery in specialized centers.

As mentioned above under “statistics and causes” much has been achieved with the elimination of aflatoxins from peanut butter through strict government regulations. However, nothing is done to prevent nitrite and nitrate food intake, which is metabolized in the body into the highly carcinogenic (=cancer producing) nitrosamines, which is the cause for liver cancer. This knowledge is known since the late 1960’s, but government legislation has not been introduced probably because of the legalistic argument that nitrites and nitrates are only “salts” and the cancer causing agents are made only in the body. The only protection for the consumer is to read the food labels and avoid the products that have this type of preservative in them. There are many alternatives and you won’t taste the difference. However, you will significantly reduce your life risk for developing liver cancer.

Vaccination against hepatitis A and B as well as against C, when this becomes available, is also very recommendable. No smoking, avoidance of smoked and cured meats and keeping alcohol consumption to an absolute minimum sticking to less concentrated beverages (moderate wine or beer consumption versus hard liquor), completes the liver cancer prevention program.


1. Cancer: Principles &Practice of Oncology.4th edition. Edited by Vincent T. DeVita, Jr. et al. Lippincott, Philadelphia,PA, 1993. Chapter on Hepatobiliary Neoplasms.

2. Cancer: Principles&Practice of Oncology. 5th edition, volume 1. Edited by Vincent T. DeVita, Jr. et al. Lippincott-Raven Publ., Philadelphia,PA, 1997. Chapter on Hepatobiliary Neoplasms.

3. SA Hussain et al. Ann Oncol 2001 Feb;12(2):161-172.

4. M Nakamura et al. J Cell Physiol 2001 Jun;187(3):392-401.

5. Conn’s Current Therapy 2004, 56th ed., Copyright © 2004 Elsevier

6. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment, 2004 ed., Copyright © 2004 Mosby, Inc

Last modified: October 20, 2014

This outline is only a teaching aid to patients and should stimulate you to ask the right questions when seeing your doctor. However, the responsibility of treatment stays in the hands of your doctor and you.