Targeted Oral Therapy

Because traditional chemotherapy has not been very effective against liver cancer and has made little impact on extending survival, health care providers are increasingly treating patients with targeted oral therapies (pills taken by mouth). These therapies may be used to treat patients who are unable to have surgery or a liver transplant. Unlike traditional chemotherapy, targeted oral therapies are directed against changes or processes that take place in growing cancer cells. For example, the therapies slow the growth of liver tumors and reduce their blood supply.

Sorafenib is the first targeted therapy approved in the United States for people with advanced liver cancer. The drug stops the growth of new blood vessels that supply the tumor. The drug also blocks special growth-promoting substances that help the tumor to grow. Sorafenib is taken by mouth twice daily and enters the bloodstream, which means it could be used against cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Other oral therapies are being developed and many are being studied in clinical trials. 

Side Effects of Targeted Oral Therapy

Side effects of targeted oral therapy with sorafenib include nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, and loss of appetite. Sometimes a person may have chest pain, bleeding problems, or blisters on the hands or feet. The drug can also cause high blood pressure and bleeding problems. The health care team will monitor your health carefully while you are on this medication.

The health care team must be told about all of the prescription and over-the-counter drugs you are on, as well as any herbal remedies, since these could interfere with your liver cancer medication.