What is chemotherapy for liver cancer?Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with drugs that can destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells. The goals of chemotherapy treatment are to control the cancer, keep it from spreading by slowing the cancer's growth and improve or reduce the symptoms of the disease. Chemotherapy is more than undergoing infusions or taking pills. For patients with liver cancer who need chemotherapy, this means that a hepatologist or medical oncologist who specializes in liver cancer care is part of the team and oversees the delivery of chemotherapy.
Multidisciplinary Liver Tumor CareWhen liver tumor patients at the University of Michigan receive this therapy, it means that doctors and nurses are providing cancer care according to a personalized treatment plan developed by specialists in the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center's multidisciplinary tumor program. Members are experts in hepatology, surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, and diagnostic and interventional radiology. Their frequent meetings allow patients to have the expertise of a multidisciplinary team of physicians with a focus on liver cancer - without having to schedule individual appointments.
Chemotherapy can be very challenging in the treatment of liver cancer: to date, most chemotherapy drugs are not effective for liver cancer. In contrast, sorafenib is the only FDA approved drug for use by patients with hepatocellular carcinoma - also called HCC or hepatoma, a primary liver cancer. Our specialists prescribe this drug for as many as 50 patients with liver cancer a year for whom surgery or ablation are not an option because it is proven to prolong survival and preserve quality of life. For patients who are resistant to sorafenib, research trials using new investigational therapies are often available for consideration. For other primary and secondary liver cancers (metastatic), many other chemotherapy regimens are available that can provide a tumor response and potentially extend survival with good quality of life. In some situations, tumors may be "down-staged" for additional therapies.
For more information about chemotherapy treatment at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, please see our What to Expect from Chemotherapy webpages.
What to expectPatients' quality of life is further enhanced because this drug is a tablet and can be taken at home, rather than through infusion at a hospital or clinic. Sorafenib has lower toxicity than many other forms of chemotherapy, meaning patients tolerate it reasonably well, don't experience hair loss, and may continue taking it for as long as they are feeling well.
Make an appointment/referralTo make a first time appointment, please call 1-800-865-1125 (Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm EST).
Children and young adults receive treatment in the Solid Tumor Oncology Program, part of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.
If you would like to refer a patient, please contact our M-Line service: 800-962-3555. For more information, visit our
Make an Appointment web page.
Still have questions?The nurses at Cancer AnswerLine™ have answers. Call 1-800-865-1125 and you'll get a personal response from one of our registered nurses, who have years of experience in caring for people with cancer.