Breakthrough In Liver Cancer Treatment

Cancer care has reached a ''landmark moment'' with a groundbreaking treatment being used for the first time in the country to treat the disease in the liver by ''bathing'' it in chemotherapy.

Dr Brian Stedman, a consultant interventional radiologist at Southampton General Hospital, has now used the treatment, which isolates the organ from the body for 60 minutes during the process, on two patients.

He explained that by separating the organ using two balloons to divert the blood supply past the liver, it enabled the drugs to be delivered directly and at much higher dosage.

Following the treatment, known as chemosaturation therapy or percutaneous hepatic perfusion (PHP), the blood from the liver is drained from the patient and processed through a filtration machine to reduce toxicity before being returned to the patient via the jugular vein.

Results of a recent study in the US showed patients who received PHP survived five times longer before the disease - metastatic melanoma - progressed than those who had standard chemotherapy.

Dr Stedman said: ''To cut off an organ from the body for 60 minutes, soak it in a high dose of drug and then filter the blood almost completely clean before returning is truly groundbreaking.

''Previously, the outlook for patients specifically suffering from cancer which has spread to the liver has been poor because the effect of standard chemotherapies is limited by the unwanted damage the drug causes to the rest of the body.''

Dr Stedman, who is the lead for pancreatic and hepatobiliary cancer in Southampton, added that the treatment could go on to be used for a number of other cancers, including colon, breast and melanoma.

In addition to studies in the US, the technique has been used in Germany, Italy, Ireland and France.