Home » Oncology » A liver cancer diagnosis is devastating – but SIRT can help

Vanessa Hebditch

Director of Communications and Policy, British Liver Trust

For the 5,000 people in the UK that are diagnosed with primary liver cancer or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), treatment choices have been severely limited. Now there’s a new option.

The British Liver Trust has continued to work with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) during its examination into the use of selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT). Earlier this year, NICE announced that it would fund SIRT on the NHS, meaning that an estimated 36% of HCC sufferers will be eligible for the treatment.

Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Communications and Policy at the British Liver Trust was part of the team who helped NICE compile evidence and testimony from current sufferers, highlighting the current lack of options.

The forgotten cancer

She says, “Liver cancer in the UK is one of those forgotten cancers that doesn’t seem to get the same attention as other mainstream cancers. Not only does it have a grim prognosis – only 13% reach five-year survival rate, but it also comes with a large stigma attached.”

Liver cancer in the UK is one of those forgotten cancers that doesn’t seem to get the same attention as other mainstream cancers.

Hebditch explains that for a large majority of people diagnosed with liver cancer, they may also have liver disease which complicates any treatment plan. While liver disease is often known as a bi-product of alcoholism, there are actually many reasons why the liver might be damaged.

Vials of TheraSphere – the tiny radioactive beads used in SIRT treatment. Beads shown in size comparison to a human hair.
Image provided by Boston Scientific

Improving access to treatment

However, for those with primary cancer of the liver or HCC, it is hoped that SIRT will stop the tumour from growing further and hopefully shrink it ready for removal without the need to take out any healthy liver tissue.

Hebditch says, “For us this new treatment is really important, we’re delighted for patients who now have access to this life-changer. Not only will it prolong life but it also offers a better quality of life. We only hope that all patients will have access to this treatment, wherever they live. Hopefully a wider provision of the service will come in time, although we acknowledge that at the moment it is still a specialist service.”


Next article