Many Blacks who are diagnosed with Liver cancer often find out at later stages of the cancer, making it tough to find treatment that actually works.
A new drug combination for advanced liver cancer can extend people’s lives substantially more than the long-standing drug of choice, new study findings confirm.
The treatment involves two drugs approved to fight various cancers: bevacizumab (Avastin) and atezolizumab (Tecentriq). Avastin, an intravenous (IV) drug, starves tumors by preventing new blood vessel growth.
Tecentriq, also given by IV, is an immune checkpoint inhibitor. Those newer, “immunotherapy” drugs help the immune system seek and destroy tumors.
In a trial published last year, researchers found that for patients with advanced liver cancer, the combination worked better than a drug that had been the standard of care for 13 years.
It lengthened patients’ lives to a greater degree and bought them more time before their cancer progressed.
At the time, experts hailed the trial as a “landmark,” and an approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration quickly followed.
The new findings offer a longer-term look at the study patients, showing what the “true” median survival is, said lead researcher Dr. Richard Finn.
Median survival refers to the point where half of patients given a treatment are still alive.
Finn’s team found that median survival among Avastin/Tecentriq patients was just over 19 months, compared with 13 months among patients given a drug called sorafenib (Nexavar).
Nexavar, which was approved for liver cancer in 2007, had been the standard first choice for patients like those in the study. All had hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) — the most common type of cancer originating in the liver — and in all cases, the disease had either spread or could not be treated with surgery.
Until this trial, “we’d never been able to improve upon sorafenib in these patients,” said Finn, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles Geffen School of Medicine.