ISMETT Participates in Groundbreaking Liver Cancer Research

By: Francesca Valagussa and Courtney Caprara

UPMC-managed ISMETT in Palermo, Italy, was one of nine Italian hospitals to participate in the first randomized trial assessing liver transplantation as a treatment for liver cancer. The results were published in The Lancet Oncology earlier this month.

The research, led by Istituto dei Tumori in Milan with contributions from Dr. Salvatore Gruttadauria at ISMETT, involved 74 patients between 18 and 65 years of age, all of whom were diagnosed with nonmetastatic liver cancer and had already received different therapies to reduce the size of their tumors. The patients were divided into two groups: the first underwent a liver transplant while the second continued to be treated with non-surgical therapies.

Five years following surgery, the research showed an impressive 76.8% of the transplanted patients were free from cancer and relapses, while only 18.3% of those who continued with traditional treatments survived.

“As a leading transplant center in both Italy and Europe, we are proud to use ISMETT’s resources to contribute to such important research,” said Dr. Angelo Luca, director of ISMETT. “While transplants used to be viewed as a last resort, today they can give new hope and opportunity in the battle against liver cancer.”

Following these encouraging results, this research will allow for the implementation of a new standard in treatment for this form of carcinoma. If traditional therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation, do not result in sufficient improvements, patients can be put on the list for liver transplant.

“This is an excellent randomized clinical trial showing that cirrhotic patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma could have their tumors shrunk, allowing for liver transplantation and improved overall survival compared to those who did not have a transplant,” said Dr. David Geller, director of the UPMC Liver Cancer Center in Pittsburgh. “The study has important implications for expanding liver transplantation criteria for certain patients with this condition.”