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Nivolumab for hepatocellular carcinoma – adjuvant


Cancer and Palliative Care

August 2020

Nivolumab is in clinical development for the treatment of a primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), which is cancer that originally develops in the liver and accounts for nine in ten primary liver cancer cases. Current treatment options commonly include surgical intervention such as liver transplants, as such there is a gap in treatment for minimally invasive pharmacological options.
Nivolumab, administered by intravenous infusion (injection into the vein), will be used as a secondary treatment for people who have already had cancerous tissue removed through surgery or other methods, but have had disease reoccurrence. Current recommended medical treatments target enzyme pathways, whereas nivolumab uses an alternative treatment pathway by targeting the immune system. Cancer cells commonly have receptor-blockers that make themselves invulnerable to the body’s immune cells, such as T-cells. Ordinarily T-cells bind to harmful, disease-causing cells or faulty cells via receptors and cause the cell to burst and die. Nivolumab works by activating T-cells, which can then kill cancer cells. Therefore, if licensed, nivolumab would offer an additional secondary treatment option for the treatment of liver cancer.

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