Immunotherapy For Liver Cancer

Immunotherapy For Liver Cancer
28 Oct 2023
10 mins
Table Of Content
Immunotherapy For Liver Cancer

    "We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up or fight like hell."


    Today, we are going to see the most important tool that boosts our immune system to fight against liver cancer cells, which is nothing but immunotherapy. Treating liver cancer is not as simple as we think, but we use an advanced treatment like immunotherapy, which can treat complex liver cases with minimal side effects compared to others. Let's explore more about the essence of immunotherapy in treating liver cancer in this blog.


    Immunotherapy: A Saviour Against Liver Cancer


    Our immune system is the best defense force in our body; by triggering this, we can defeat the most dangerous killer, liver cancer. This can be achieved by medicines that help a patient's own immune system find and destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy is an emerging liver cancer treatment that stimulates your immune system to fight against the deathly cancer cells in the liver. It is used to treat patients with advanced liver cancer stage (metastatic) and whose health condition is not able to support surgery. 


    Immunotherapy For Metastatic Liver Cancer


    Immunotherapy is effective against metastatic (secondary) liver cancer. Metastatic cancer is a type of cancer that spreads from where it started to a distant part of the body; it is also called stage IV (4) cancer. This process of spreading cancer cells to other parts of the body is called metastasis. Immunotherapy has given a promising treatment for reversing these conditions and is considered a revolutionary treatment for the metastasis of liver cancer.


    Effect Of Immunotherapy In Liver Cancer


    • It increases the rate of survival of liver cancer patients.
    • It gives long-term cancer control for patients who are suffering from liver cancer.
    • It minimizes the risk of side effects caused by other cancer treatments (chemotherapy, surgery).
    • Immunotherapy is the best option for treating liver cancer in patients with health complications (some patients' health does not support surgery, or the severity of the disease is too high to treat it).
    • Chemotherapy drugs can also affect nerve control in individuals (loss of sensation). In that case, immunotherapy is the best option to treat patients with nerve problems.


    Type Of Immunotherapy


    Cancer can be treated by different types of immunotherapy based on the type and severity of the cancer. Some of the types of immunotherapy are given below:


    • Immune checkpoint inhibitors: Their main role is to prevent an immune response that destroys healthy cells in the body. It inhibits the checkpoint protein (PD-L1,  CTLA-4) binding with the partners.
    • Monoclonal antibodies: Monoclonal antibodies are proteins, artificial or man-made antibodies, meant to stimulate your immune system.
    • Treatment vaccines: They stimulate the immune system to attack and recognize cancer cells and also train your body to fight against it.
    • Immune system modulators: They increase T cell growth factor levels that play a significant role in attacking the cancer cells and destroying them.
    • Adoptive cell therapy (T-cell transfer therapy): It involves collecting a patient's immune cells, especially T cells, and improvising them in the laboratory to fight against cancer and then incorporating them again into the patient's body.


    Best Immunotherapy For Liver Cancer


    Among the five types of immunotherapy treatment, immune checkpoint inhibitors are the commonly used immunotherapy against liver cancer. According to studies, the combination of atezolizumab-bevacizumab drugs gives the best result for treating liver cancer by immunotherapy.


    Immunotherapy Success Rate For Liver Cancer


    According to the Asian Institute of Gastroenterology (AIG), the combination of atezolizumab-bevacizumab immunotherapy drugs can completely resolve the tumor in 12.9 percent of liver cancer patients and partially resolve 25.8 percent of liver cancer patients. The The overall survival rate of immunotherapy for liver cancer patients who have good liver function is 21 months.


    Side Effects Of Immunotherapy For Liver Cancer


    Immunotherapy can cause side effects due to the immune response against the cancer and also acts against healthy cells.


    • Pain: Most of the people experience pain in the upper right quadrant. If you experience any pain during or after cancer treatment, tell your doctor.
    • Swelling: Checkpoint inhibitors induce an immune response that can cause redness and swelling in the body.
    • Fluid retention: You may experience edema after immunotherapy or weight gain due to the accumulation of fluid.
    • Diarrhea and colitis: Diarrhea is the common symptom most of people experience during the treatment, which is caused by the inflammation of the colon (colitis).
    • Infection: Infections are common in CAR T-cell therapy due to the weakening of infection-fighting immune cells.
    • Organ inflammation (liver inflammation): Even though immunotherapy is meant to help your immune system fight against cancer cells, the immune cells mistakenly attack healthy tissue, which leads to inflammation of the liver.
    • Elevation of liver or pancreatic enzymes: You may have an increased liver enzyme ( alkaline phosphatase, alanine transaminase, aspartate aminotransferase, and gamma-glutamyl transferase) or pancreatic enzymes (lipase, protease, and amylase).


    Recent Research In Immunotherapy For Liver Cancer


    An Australian research center (Peter Mac) has identified a new type of immunotherapy that uses a drug targeting mRNA. It fools the cancer cells and helps our immune system to destroy it. They found that the inhibition of the certain enzyme (METTL3) in cancer cells triggers the immune system to kill the cancer cells, which resemble the structure of viruses. This strategy is more effective when we combine this with immune checkpoint inhibitors for treatment.




    What is the success of immunotherapy on liver cancer?

    Even though only 15 to 25 percent of patients show a response to immunotherapy for liver cancer, it is the most effective treatment for patients who are in an advanced liver cancer stage.


    Is everyone eligible for immunotherapy treatment for liver cancer? 

    However, immunotherapy is the best option to treat advanced liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). It is not a good option for early liver cancer. Your doctor will decide and recommend the appropriate type of treatment based on the stage of cancer.


    What do I need to follow while under immunotherapy treatment for liver cancer?

    Your body needs proper rest while under immunotherapy medication. So, always remember to take enough rest for a speedy recovery. Eat a nutritional-rich diet and stay hydrated. Make sure that you always connect with your doctor during the treatment and after the treatment.


    Can I experience hair fall while under immunotherapy treatment?

    You may experience hair thinning during immunotherapy treatment due to an immune response against the healthy hair cells. Treatments like chemotherapy may cause intense hair fall compared to other cancer treatments.




    I hope everyone who reads this blog knows that we can win the battle of liver cancer easily with the powerful tool of immunotherapy. Use this tool wisely by following the essential notes that are mentioned in this blog. Always remember to speak with your doctor for the best choice of treatment based on your liver cancer stage and your health condition. Research and development help us to overcome the side effects caused by immunotherapy so that we can use this beneficial tool in a better way.


    "Being positive is the best medicine you can take."

    Written by
    Dr Archana GuptaBDS
    AboutDr. Archana is a Medical Content Writer at MrMed. She graduated with a Bachelor of Dentistry (BDS) from Surendera Dental College, Ganganangar, Rajasthan in 2019. She participated in various aspects of clinical services, and research projects and has written various blogs and articles. She is proficient in researching, writing, editing, and proofreading of medical content and blogs.
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