Biological therapies for primary liver cancer
Biological therapies are substances that target the differences between cancer cells and normal cells. For this reason they are often called targeted therapies.
A biological therapy drug called sorafenib (Nexavar®) is sometimes used to treat primary liver cancer.
Sorafenib is a type of drug called a multi-targeted kinase inhibitor. In order to grow and divide, cancer cells ‘communicate’ with each other using chemical signals. Sorafenib works by interfering with the growth of some types of cancer cells. It also works by slowing the growth of new blood vessels in the tumour.
Sorafenib is used to treat advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). It is a tablet that‘s usually taken twice a day. Side effects include sore palms of the hands and soles of the feet (hand/foot skin reaction), tiredness, diarrhoea, feeling sick (nausea), high blood pressure and muscle pains.
Although sorafenib is licensed and can be prescribed in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has not recommended sorafenib as a treatment for people with primary liver cancer. The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has not recommended sorafenib for use in the NHS in Scotland. As a result, sorafenib may not be widely available on the NHS.