Liver cancer is the sixth most diagnosed cancer globally and the third leading cause of cancer death. Hepatocellular carcinoma, making up about 90% of liver cancer cases, usually arises in individuals with chronic liver disease from hepatitis, cirrhosis, inherited liver conditions, or aflatoxin exposure.  

This FAQ explores the developments in liver cancer treatment, focusing on innovative drugs, ongoing clinical trials, and their potential impact on patient outcomes.

1. What is the global incidence of liver cancer and how does it vary across different regions?

Liver cancer poses a significant health burden with nearly 860,000 new cases and 760,000 cancer deaths reported in 2022, globally. Asia recorded the highest incidence, followed by Europe, North America, and the rest of the world regions. The country-wise incidence rates showed variations, with Thailand and China among the countries having the highest incidence rates. These diverse trends reflect the complex epidemiological landscape of liver cancer across the world.  

2. What are the treatment options for liver cancer?

Liver cancer is often linked to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, complicating the treatment process. Surgical resection offers the best outcomes, but many patients are ineligible due to tumor size or liver conditions, making liver transplantation a viable alternative. Standard chemotherapy faces resistance due to mechanisms like autophagy activation and increased drug efflux. Despite these challenges, advancements like the atezolizumab and bevacizumab combination have significantly improved survival rates. Ongoing research into therapy combinations and personalized treatment plans offer further hope for liver cancer patients.

3. What are the recent trends in clinical trials for liver cancer, particularly in terms of geographical distribution and patient recruitment?

Recent trends observed in liver cancer clinical trials globally include a surge in trials initiated since 2018, with over 1700 trials being initiated by the biotech and biopharma industry. Asia-Pacific and North America lead in the number of trials conducted, followed by Europe, while the rest of the world contributes moderately. Mainland China leads in Asia-Pacific, while the United States is prominent in North America. Significant research efforts are also seen in Spain, France, and The United Kingdom in the European region and Israel in the rest of the world. In terms of patient recruitment trends, Asia-Pacific showed shorter recruitment durations and faster patient recruitment rates.

4. How do current advancements help in liver cancer treatment?

Ongoing research aims to improve liver cancer outcomes by combining therapies and tailoring treatment plans. Current advancements include targeted therapy, immunotherapy, precision medicine, transarterial therapy, and radiation therapy. Targeted therapies such as Sorafenib and Lenvatinib specifically target molecules involved in the growth of hepatocellular carcinoma. Immunotherapy enhances the immune system's ability to recognize and attack cancer cells. Transarterial therapy delivers drugs directly to liver tumors, using methods like TACE and TARE. Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. These advancements offer new hope and improved survival rates for liver cancer patients.

5. How are public funding initiatives impacting liver cancer treatment accessibility?

Public funding initiatives by entities like the Australian Government and the European Union are significantly enhancing liver cancer treatment accessibility in Australia and Europe. The EU's €12 million THRIVE project is a notable initiative. China's National Natural Science Foundation has consistently increased funding, supporting over 2,600 projects in the past decade. In the US, the AASLD Foundation allocates $2 million annually to support nearly 150 researchers. 

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