The liver is the largest gland in the body and has a complex structure, made up of cells (hepatocytes), arteries, veins and ducts, which are organized for production, processing, and storing useful substances in our body, as well as removing toxic substances, and acting as a barrier against pathogens transmitted through blood from the bowel.
In the first six months of life, this organ can even produce blood cells – a function that it can resume in some circumstances. The importance and the centrality of this organ explains its attractiveness to the formation of cancer. In fact, as many cells pass through the liver, certain cancerous ones – especially those of intestinal neoplasms – can remain and give rise to tumors known as metastases. What is more, due to the liver’s role in producing, storing, and purifying blood, toxic agents and viruses can sometimes enter it and cause chronic alterations, which in turn lead to such tumors as hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma.
Humanitas’ highly specialized multidisciplinary team has been treating all these conditions with excellent results for years, often curing liver cancer completely. The team is comprised of hepatologists, oncologists, radiologists, interventional radiologists, radiotherapists, nuclear medicine physicians, anatomical pathologists, and specialized nurses.
The Department of Hepatobiliary surgery, headed by Pr. Guido Torzilli, performs over 200 surgeries on primary liver tumors and liver metastases arising from colon tumors annually. Surgery, where possibile, remains the best therapeutic approach for these patients, with significant developments achieved also in medical and radiotherapy treatments, successfully practiced at Humanitas. Liver surgery is considered highly complex. and is therefore evolving into a separate specialty. Indeed, the liver, despite its well-known ability to regenerate, stops functioning if an excessive portion of it is removed or if the resection was done incorrectly, damaging the remaining part of the organ. That is why, not only advanced skills of the surgeon, but also guiding tools, such as ultrasonography, are essential for the success of the operation. In this context, the Humanitas Department of Hepatobiliary surgery has become an international leader, adopting all the novel surgical techniques, which allow to conserve the most amount of healthy liver tissue and ensure proper functioning of the remaining sections of the organ. This allows to offer surgical treatment to patients that otherwise would have been considered inoperable. The techniques developed by the Department of Hepatobiliary surgery, now progressively spreading to other hospitals globally, guarantee the conservation of the healthy tissue in most patients and reduce mortality and complications risks to 1%, – the highest safety figures in the world.
Being an international benchmark for a new type of liver operation, Department of Hepatobiliary surgery facilitates the dissemination of new techniques among surgeons and organizes annual courses, attended by specialists from all over the world. Furthermore, the Department leads numerous clinical studies, aimed at perfecting surgical methodology further, which see among its participants such foreign centers such as the University of Tokyo, Juntendo University (Tokyo), Nihon University (Tokyo), the University of Paris, the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, John Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, and the Italian Hospital in Buenos Aires.