Liver Metastasis Remains a Major Threat to Cancer Survivors

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Recent cases on headline news about liver metastasis such as Tony Snow's recent diagnosis derived from his primary colon cancer, underscores the fact that liver metastasis is a major threat to cancer survivors. The National Foundation for Cancer Research is currently supporting multiple research projects that are aimed at providing hope against liver metastasis by targeting both the primary cancers and their metastasis.

Recent cases on headline news about liver metastasis such as Tony Snow's recent diagnosis derived from his primary colon cancer, underscores the fact that liver metastasis is a major threat to cancer survivors. Although cancer rarely begins in the liver, it is often one of the first places where cancer comes back, through metastasis, in cancer survivors. This is primarily due to the liver serving as a primary organ with a very rich blood supply along with a unique microstructure that allows cancer cells to easily enter and hold on once arriving.

"In fact, about 80% of cancers in the liver derive from primary tumors at other sites within the body," said Dr. Sujuan Ba, the Chief Science Officer at the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR). Metastatic liver cancers mainly come from primary tumors in the colon, rectum, stomach, pancreas, ovary, breast and lung. When a liver cancer is the result of spreading from colon cancer, the prognosis is usually not optimistic: 5-year survival rates may plummet to as low as 10%.

Treatment of liver metastasis varies depending on the site of the original cancer, the extent of cancer spread to the liver and many other factors. If the metastatic cancer is restricted to one or a few discrete areas within the liver, surgical removal may provide a cure. In other cases, chemotherapy is often used and may produce a therapeutic response in 20% of liver cancer patients. In most cases however, the disease is currently not curable.

Researchers at NFCR believe that with the advancement of technology and ever-growing knowledge about this disease, major improvements in the treatment of colon and metastatic liver cancer are within reach.

NFCR is currently supporting multiple research projects that are aimed at providing hope against liver metastasis by targeting both the primary cancers and their metastasis. NFCR scientists I. Bernard Weinstein, M.D., at Columbia University, Rakesh Jain, Ph.D., at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Wei Zhang, Ph.D., at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, are exploring alternative routes to tackling primary colorectal cancer cells more effectively. This reduces the cancer cells chances of spreading to the liver and other vital organs. Their research has led to the identification of novel molecular targets, new biomarkers and more potent therapies for the treatment of primary colorectal cancer.

It is much more difficult to treat cancer after metastasis occurs. The good news is scientists at NFCR Center for Metastasis Research may have found some clues against the stealthy spread of cancer. Led by Center Director Danny Welch, Ph.D., researchers at this NFCR Center have discovered several "metastasis suppressors" that prevent cancer cells from growing in the distant sites of the body after they arrive. Metastasis suppressors have been shown to inhibit the spread of breast, prostate, ovarian cancers and melanoma (skin cancer).

About the National Foundation for Cancer Research
Since 1973, the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) has spent over $240 million funding basic science cancer research and public education relating to the prevention, treatment and cure of cancer. NFCR is about accelerating the pace of discovery from bench to bedside and to educating the public so that, together, we can achieve one of medicine's greatest goals: curing cancer. For more visit http://www.NFCR.org or call 1-800-321-CURE (2873).

Media Contact:     
Silas Deane
National Foundation for Cancer Research
Phone: (301) 654-1250, ext. 105
E-mail: sdeane @ nfcr.org

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