October 30, 2003
Replacement Organs Effective Liver Cancer Treatment

The ability to detect cancer at ever earlier stages using advances in blood and other testing will combine with the coming ability to grow replacement organs to provide a better method for treating some forms of cancer: organ replacement.

Alexandria, VA-In the first national study to examine survival among liver transplant patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), researchers found excellent five-year survival results, with a steady improvement over the last decade. Hepatocellular carcinoma, also known as hepatoma, or cancer of the liver, is a common cancer worldwide, with more than one million new cases diagnosed each year and a median life expectancy of six to nine months. Most hepatoma patients have cirrhosis, a risk factor of hepatoma, and are inoperable because of tumor size, location or severity of underlying liver disease. Results of this study will be reported online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

"This study shows that we can achieve excellent survival with liver transplantation among patients with hepatoma, confirming similar results reported by single center studies," said Paul J. Thuluvath, MD, senior author and Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "These findings are particularly reassuring for patients with tumors that cannot be surgically removed, which comprise more than 80 % of HCC patients."

The results for this approach are good and improving:

Researchers found significant and steady improvement in survival over time among liver transplant patients with HCC, particularly in the last five years. Five-year survival improved from 25.3 percent during 1987-1991 to 47 percent during 1992-1996, and 61.1 percent during 1996-2001.

Of course, the big problem is that there are not enough donor organs. The future development of the ability to rapidly grow replacement organs will yield a very attractive option for many forms of organ cancer: replace the defective part. Why not? After all, if you are 50 or 60 or 70 years old replacement of a tired old organ with a lot of miles on it could provide a bit of a boost. Preemptive replacement of many old organs before an organ cancer even begins would partially reverse aging. Put in a new stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas and other parts to get a late middle age partial rejuvenation while simultaenously reducing the risk of cancer.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 October 30 03:17 PM  Biotech Therapies

Paul Banks said at October 30, 2003 7:35 PM:

Oddly enough, and sadly, I am worried that this will, for a long time, be counter to medical strategy. My mother in law had cancer spread from her liver, and they would not, even after detecting it early, consider a replacement because of the liklihood that dormat cancer cells would reenter the organ and they'd lose a valuable transplant. She did not make it, and I think that while it would be a great preventative measure, this generation of doctors might never accept it.


Randall Parker said at October 30, 2003 7:46 PM:

Paul, Her doctors had reasonable fears. Their problem is that there are not even donor livers to go around. So a decision has to be made to give the livers to those with the highest chance of being helped. There is no way to save more people with the existing limited supply of livers.

That will all change once new livers can be grown outside the body. Or perhaps eventually it will become possible for a person to grow a second liver within to be given as transplant. If the liver could be protected from the host immune system perhaps via use of a protective membrane layer or immunosuppressive drugs this might eventually become possible.

Paul Banks said at October 31, 2003 9:44 PM:

Oh I realize that if there were an infinite supply of organs, they would not have been concerned, nor do I question their concern. However, I think that there is going to be a slow transformation of the medical culture ethically, as well as methodologically, before they ever would transplant to a cancer patient.

Here's to hoping that people in the future will have a better shot, and we can work around the ethics of the issue effectively.


Ken said at November 2, 2003 3:10 PM:

Once we can grow an entire replacement body (sans brain, of course) and transplant the brain into it, then we'll really be cooking.

I'll bet that that's the first true anti-aging treatment to come down the pike.

Gershbein Reid said at March 16, 2004 1:03 AM:

Just because there's a pattern doesn't mean there's a purpose.

Anonymous said at October 13, 2010 11:22 PM:

can it able to replace when the disease at advanced stage??
because my mother has her liver metastatis spreaded from esophageal carcinoma.

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