For a long time, patients with intermediate-stage liver cancer, where the tumour is too large to be removed with surgery, had no clear data on which treatment worked best.
One type of treatment directs tiny radioactive spheres to the tumour, while the other is an oral medication – sorafenib – that must be taken as long as the body can bear the side effects.
But after seven years of research, a team from Singapore led by National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) surgeon Pierce Chow has found that half the people on the oral medication experienced side effects, compared with just over a quarter for the radiation treatment.
And of the people who completed the radiation treatment, 23 per cent had their tumours shrink, compared with 2 per cent for oral medication.
When the tumours shrink, it means doctors can potentially treat the problem with surgery or a liver transplant.