A Look at Liver Cancer

As Greek mythology tells us, the titan Prometheus was punished by the gods for giving fire to man. His sentence? Eternal torture. Each day, an eagle would eat his liver, which would grow back overnight, ready to be devoured by the eagle again the next day.

The liver’s ability to regenerate presumably evolved to protect it from damage from food toxins. However, chronic cycles of liver damage and regeneration can lead to aberrant replication and eventually the development of liver cancer.

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Why Are Liver Cancer Death Rates Up?

Since the 1990s, the cancer mortality rate in the U.S. has steadily declined. Yet liver cancer death rates in the U.S. have increased. Why?
Liver cancer is caused principally by the combination of a chronic hepatitis B virus infection and dietary exposure to aflatoxin B1, a contaminant that grows on corn and peanuts. Recent efforts to better control liver cancer globally include wide distribution of hepatitis B virus vaccines—more than a billion so far—and deployment of food safety tactics to prevent exposure to aflatoxin B1.

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FDA Approvals Provide Advances in Precision Medicine and Immunotherapy

During the early part of November, we saw the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve a new molecularly targeted therapeutic, lorlatinib (Lorbrena), and expand the use of the immunotherapeutic pembrolizumab (Keytruda). These new approvals, which are for the treatment of certain patients with lung cancer and liver cancer, respectively, highlight that progress in the fields of precision medicine and immunotherapy is continuing unabated.

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Recent FDA Approvals Signal More Progress Against Cancer

The past month has seen the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expand the use of four anticancer therapeutics, providing new treatment options for patients with four types of cancer. On Aug. 16, 2018, the agency approved the immunotherapeutic nivolumab (Opdivo) for treating certain patients with small cell lung cancer and approved the molecularly targeted therapeutic lenvatinib (Lenvima) for treating certain patients with the most common type of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Why Is Liver Cancer on the Rise?

Although liver cancer isn’t as prevalent as lung cancer or breast cancer, this cancer is now the fastest-increasing cause of cancer death in the United States. In the Spring 2018 issue of Cancer Today, contributing editor Sue Rochman explored contributing factors for the increased liver cancer incidence since the mid-1970s.

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FDA Approvals for Liver and Stomach Cancer Extend the Reach of Immunotherapy

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased the number of types of cancer for which immunotherapeutics known as checkpoint inhibitors are a treatment option when it expanded the approved uses of nivolumab (Opdivo) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda) to include certain patients with liver cancer and stomach cancer, respectively.

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One More Reason to Stay Trim: Reduce Your Liver Cancer Risk

Liver cancer rates have been on the rise in the United States and have tripled in the last four decades. A study published in 2014 in the AACR’s journal Cancer Research projected that pancreatic cancer and liver cancer will surpass breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers to become the second and third leading causes of cancer death, following lung cancer.

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