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Liver Cancer Tumors Shrink with Electromagnetic Treatment


A novel treatment for liver cancer that involves electromagnetic fields has shown promise in a phase II study, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The unusual treatment was found to shrink liver cancer tumors and did so without affecting normal cells.

Liver cancer treatment is ready for further studies

The phase II study involved 41 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer and the one that often does not respond well to chemotherapy. HCC is usually caused by cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), which is typically caused by alcohol abuse, hepatitis B or C, or diseases associated with prolonged inflammation of the liver.

The patients were treated with very low levels of an electromagnetic field that was emitted from a spoon-shaped mouthpiece the individuals held in their mouths. The frequency delivered by the device ranged from 100 to 1,000 times less than what is generated by a cell phone.

According to Boris Pasche, MD, PhD, director of the UAB Division of Hematology and Oncology, when patients insert the mouthpiece, “the body becomes an antenna—the whole body receives a tiny but fairly homogeneous amount of radio-frequency.”

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All the patients were treated for six months, receiving three one-hour treatments daily. None of the patients experienced significant side effects from the therapy. According to the authors, the most successful patient has had regular therapy since August 2006 and her tumor continues to shrink, without serious side effects.

Overall, fourteen patients saw their tumors stabilize after six months of treatment without experiencing significant adverse effects. In addition, seven of the 11 patients who said they had pain before they started treatment reported their pain had decreased or disappeared after treatment. There is also evidence the electromagnetic treatment may affect metastatic cancer as well.

Liver cancer is a difficult disease to treat, with only one drug, sorafenib (Nexavar), approved by the FDA over the past two decades. The drug is for advanced HCC and helps block tumor growth. Liver transplantation is effective, but is available to a limited number of patients. Chemotherapy and radiation usually are not effective, but they may help shrink tumors so surgery has a better chance to be a success.

The new electromagnetic treatment approach for liver cancer tumors is “very appealing,” says Pasche, who believes this technique could eventually become a standard of care. Pasche has “filed a patent related to the use of electromagnetic fields for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer,” and the therapy is ready for an FDA-registration study and trials.

University of Alabama, Birmingham