Recent research by Humanitas Cancer Center on treatments for hepatocellular carcinoma

Written by: Dr. Lorenza Rimassa

Dr. Lorenza Rimassa, Deputy Director of Medical Oncology at Humanitas, was the speaker at the prestigious Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium ASCO held on January 21st-23rd in San Francisco. During the conference, the results of an analysis of circulating biomarkers and phase II and III tumors, coordinated by Humanitas Cancer Center, were presented, opening up new prospects for the cure of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most prevalent primary liver cancer.


What results were presented regarding the treatment of Hepatocellular Carcinoma?

A phase III study resulted in the enrollment of approximately 300 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma in advanced stages and those who had developed resistance or intolerance to first line therapy with Sorafenib (a reference drug for the treatment of this type of cancer).

A phase II study had shown the effectiveness of Tivantinib as a second-line treatment. “Tivantinib – explains Dr. Rimassa – is a smart molecule capable of binding to MET and inducing cell death in tumor cells, therefore demonstrating a prognostic and predictive role. In fact, MET, is able to predict the evolution of the disease and patient response to the drug” adds Dr. Rimassa.

The Phase III study will be considered concluded at the end of 2016, but the data analyses conducted on biomarkers and presented during the San Francisco conference, are very encouraging.

“We analyzed more than 1,000 samples of tissue, which is a very large number for a study of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma in advanced stage – she explains -. It was discovered from the samples analyzed that after first-line treatment with Sorafenib, a lower MET expression (39%) was detected and from the samples tested prior to first-line treatment, a higher MET expression (73%) was observed. A further analysis of the latter shows that MET becomes hyper-expressed in 70% of cases after treatment with Sorafenib.

Finally Dr. Rimassa comments:

“It is innovative and extremely interesting data, confirming that tivantinib has all the prerequisites to become a standard of care for the treatment of HCC.”