HEALTH Targeted Therapy Effective for Liver Cancer Untreatable with Immunotherapy 2024.06.14

▲ Professor Changhoon Yoo of the Division of Oncology


With the development of immunotherapy to treat inoperable liver cancer, it has shown high therapeutic effects and established itself as a first-line treatment. However, there is no standard treatment for patients whose cancer has worsened despite immunotherapy. In this context, a prospective study reported that the use of targeted therapy for liver cancer resulted in an average survival of more than 14 months.


A team led by Professor Changhoon Yoo of the Division of Oncology at Asan Medical Center conducted a study from October 2020 to May 2022 on 47 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma whose cancer had worsened despite undergoing immunotherapy, as they were not eligible for surgery. The patients were treated with cabozantinib, a multi-targeted agent. The research team comparatively analyzed the patients by dividing them into subgroups based on the type and number of prior immunotherapy before cabozantinib treatment and the sequence of cabozantinib treatment.


▲ Professor Changhoon Yoo is consulting a liver cancer patient.


The results showed that, regardless of the type of immunotherapy agent, the average survival was 14.3 months for 17 patients who used cabozantinib as a second-line treatment after immunotherapy. When cabozantinib was used as a third-line treatment, the average survival was 6.5 months. The patients were treated for an average of 2.8 months, and the overall average survival after starting cabozantinib treatment was 9.9 months. As known from previous studies, adverse events such as palmar-plantar erythrodysesthesia, fatigue, hypertension, and diarrhea were observed after cabozantinib treatment, but most were managed with appropriate medication.


Professor Changhoon Yoo stated, “Until now, there have been no globally established standard guidelines for second-line treatment of inoperable hepatocellular carcinoma. Although the finding is from a phase 2 clinical trial, this prospective study has established a solid ground that cabozantinib can be used as a second-line treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma.


The study findings were recently published in the ‘Journal of Hepatology,’ one of the prestigious journals in liver diseases.