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Smilow Cancer Hospital, Yale Cancer Center launch liver cancer program

Every year in the United States, about 41,000 new cases of liver and bile duct cancer are diagnosed, and the numbers are expected to rise.

But for the estimated 200 people in Connecticut newly diagnosed with primary liver cancer each year, and those already fighting the disease, there is good news. Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center have launched a Liver Cancer Program at Smilow that brings together specialists from different disciplines to offer advanced diagnosis and treatment. Led by Mario Strazzabosco, MD, PhD, the program includes hepatologists, hepatobiliary and transplant surgeons, diagnostic and interventional radiologists, pathologists, medical oncologists and nurses.

"There is no one single way to treat liver cancer," said Dr. Strazzabosco. "Having different specialists who can provide a broad spectrum of advanced treatments is critical to providing the best care for each patient."

Hepatocellular carcinoma and choangiocarcinoma are primary liver cancers (which arise in the liver, versus spreading from other organs). Risk factors include cirrhosis, heavy alcohol use, obesity, diabetes, smoking and infection with hepatitis B or C viruses. Liver cancer treatment can be challenging because in many cases it results from advanced liver disease that has already compromised the organ's function.

Every week, the Liver Cancer Program team meets to discuss each new patient's diagnosis and develop a treatment plan based on the patient's health, age, liver function, cancer stage and location and other factors.

Treatment options include interventional radiology procedures such as ablation therapy, which uses extreme heat or cold to destroy tumors, and transarterial chemoembolization, which delivers chemotherapy through a catheter directly to the tumor. Surgical options include removal of part of the liver or liver transplantation. Medical treatment is also offered, as well as palliative care when needed.

Before and after cancer treatment, a team of onco-hepatologists continues to manage patients' underlying liver disease, preserve liver function, monitor for possible cancer recurrence and re-treat if necessary. Follow-up is essential, as hepatocellular carcinoma can often recur. To further advance liver cancer treatment, Dr. Strazzabosco hopes to expand clinical trials.

The new Liver Cancer Program builds on an already strong hepatology program at Smilow, Dr. Strazzabosco said.

"From transplantation to palliative care, we can provide the personalized care our patients need, all in one place," he said. "At Smilow, treatment options are not limited by what procedures are available; we provide all stateof- the art treatments."

The Liver Cancer Program is on the eighth floor of Smilow Cancer Hospital. For information, call 203-200-5487 (LIVR).