Liver Cancer: Beating The Odds
CHARLESTON, SC (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- It's a killer that's on the rise. Liver cancer is one of the five fastest growing cancers in the U.S. along with skin, kidney, thyroid and bile duct cancers. It's also one of the deadliest, second only to lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Liver cancer is often diagnosed in late stages making it very difficult to treat. But one doctor is researching a new treatment that brings some much needed hope to patients.
On New Year’s Eve 2008, Bobby Potter was told he had liver cancer and six months to live.
"I wasn’t ready to give up, lay down and let it take me," Potter told Ivanhoe.
Potter joined a study started by Doctor Melanie Thomas after she heard how a new treatment -- using two different drugs -- was helping kidney cancer.
"I looked at those results and said to myself, 'if that works in that disease, that tough disease, that'll work in liver cancer,'" Melanie Thomas, M.D., oncologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, said.
The first drug, Avastin starves the tumor of its blood supply. The second drug Tarceva, has a different target.
"We think the drug is interfering with that cell’s ability for growth, so the tumor stays stable for a longer period of time and that helps the patients survive longer," Dr. Thomas, explained.
In fact, the combo doubled the length of survival, and nearly 30 percent of patients had significant tumor shrinkage. Less than three percent of those treated with standard therapy had similar results.
"It’s just been a very tough disease for people to take on, but I like those problems. I like the tough problems," Dr. Thomas added.
Once 12 centimeters, Potter's tumor has shrunk by 60 percent.
"I could have been gone. Whatever the medication and god gives me, I take it every day, thankfully," Potter concluded.
An experimental treatment that's giving patients like Potter the gift of time.
Dr. Thomas says she's seeing an increase in the number of Hepatitis C related liver cancer. Hepatitis C is the most common blood borne infection in the U.S.
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Click here for Ivanhoe's full-length interview with Dr. Thomas
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