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UCLA Department of Surgery

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UCLA Department of Surgery

Liver Cancer

The Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center offers comprehensive care for liver cancer patients, providing a powerful combination of clinical treatment and medical research.

Physicians in our multidisciplinary consortium draw on the collective expertise of hepatologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, and surgeons from UCLA and the southern California community. Treatment plans are personalized for each individual's liver cancer. The goal of the center is to lead by implementing the most current advanced therapies and by advancing oncology research.

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About 29,000 Americans were diagnosed with primary liver cancer and bile duct cancer last year. Almost 21,000 Americans died from these cancers in the same time period.  This figure does not include the more than 50,000 patients who will be diagnosed each year with tumor metastatic to the liver.

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of primary liver cancer, is a heterogeneous malignancy with multiple etiologies and a mean survival of six to twenty months. People with early-stage cancers can be treated with surgery, either removing part of the liver or transplantation, with 5-year survival rates that exceed 70%. Most people, however, cannot have surgical treatment and so the overall 5-year survival is about 15%.  HCC arises almost exclusively from a background of cirrhosis of any cause, most commonly chronic hepatitis B or C infection, and hereditary hemochromatosis. While worldwide hepatitis B (HBV) is the primary cause of HCC, in Western countries hepatitis C (HCV) causes the largest number of HCC. Of the three to four million people in the United States who are chronically infected with HCV, 20% will develop cirrhosis and up to 5% will die of HCC, and the incidence is rising. HCC in the United States has more than doubled over the last 20 years and it expected to double yet again over the next 20 years. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is now rapidly becoming the most common etiology for liver disease both in the United States and worldwide.  Increasingly patients with NAFLD are developing HCC even in the absence of cirrhosis.

The physicians and staff of the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center are entirely devoted to the treatment of patients with these tumors.

Treatment

At present, the best mode of treatment for liver cancers involves surgery, including both resection and transplantation. The Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center's team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses specializes in liver operations and perioperative care. This team also staffs the Dumont-UCLA Liver Transplant Center, one of the largest liver transplant centers in the world.

In addition, the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center houses a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, and healthcare professionals dedicated primarily to the treatment of patients with liver cancers. Team members include specialists in medical oncology, hepatology, radiology (interventional and diagnostic), radiation therapy, and pathology. This team of experts collaborates closely and communicates frequently about each and every case, leading to focused, comprehensive care.  All cases are discussed thoroughly at our multidisciplinary biweekly hepatobiliary tumor board.

Patients at the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center have access to all the therapeutic and diagnostic modalities used in the treatment of liver cancer, including:

  • World-renowned surgeons with unparalleled skill and experience
  • Chemotherapy (standard and investigational)
  • Locoregional therapy
    • Chemoembolization
    • Radiofrequency ablation
    • Microwave ablation
    • Ethanol ablation
    • Cryosurgery
    • Theraspheres
    • Irreversible electroporation
    • Other investigational methods
  • Hepatic artery infusion
  • Radiation therapy
  • Newer imaging modalities, including CT, MRI, PET, and Ultrasound

Hope for the Future

As one of the nation's leading research centers, UCLA offers clinical trials of the latest experimental therapy to patients previously deemed "incurable". Given the current poor prognosis for people with liver cancer, new treatment must urgently be brought from the basic science laboratory to the pre-clinical setting to clinical trials.

Researchers at the center are testing agents that target the biological mechanism of carcinogenesis, specifically killing cancer cells rather than all rapidly dividing cells, as do commonly administered chemotherapy agents.

The Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center laboratories are devoted entirely to the study of hepatobiliary tumors with the goal of continually generating new approaches to the treatment of these tumors.

By capitalizing on the collective expertise and a broad base of patients, the physician and scientists at the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center will be one step closer to developing more effective treatment for patients with liver caners.

Patient Evaluation

Patients referred to the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center are evaluated in the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center clinic where outpatient appointments are held at least once a week.

The clinic is located at 200 UCLA Medical Plaza, adjacent to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. In more urgent cases, patients can be transferred directed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center 24 hours a day.

During the first consultation, the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center physicians will examine the patient and discuss plans for further evaluation and follow-up. Following the consultation, the case will be discussed with the referring physician as well as at the bi-weekly multidisciplinary hepatobiliary tumor board in order to best plan an individualized treatment regimen.

Subsequent diagnostic testing can be arranged either at the center from which the patient was referred or at UCLA Medical Center, depending on the nature of the exam and the preferences of the referring physician and patient. Depending upon the patient's functional status and treatment plan, pre-operative evaluations by consulting physician may be arranged either at the referring center or at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Role of the Referring Physician

Each referring physician will be contacted following the initial patient evaluation and will be sent a written consultation by a faculty member. If additional tests are required and then obtained at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, these results will also be forwarded to the referring physician.

Throughout the patient's evaluation and treatment at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, the referring physician remains the primary physician and may request physician the collaboration of the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center faculty and staff to any degree desired. Referring physician and case managers will be frequently updated on the patient's status.

Most patients will require follow-up; it is the referring physician who will decide where these activities should take place. Faculty and staff at the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center are available to serve as consultants.

Referral Guidelines

Any patients with known or suspected hepatobiliary tumors-malignant or benign- are candidates for referral. Common reasons include:

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Cholangiocarcinoma
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Metastatic tumors
  • Focal nodular hyperplasia
  • Adenoma
  • Hemangioma
  • Cyst
  • Hepatoblastoma

Physician may refer patients to the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center by calling (310) 825-1412. Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center staff will obtain initial information during this phone call and will schedule an appointment. The faculty or clinical nurse coordinator will then contact the referring physician or case manager to exchange additional information and to make any special arrangements needed prior to the patient's evaluation. Physicians are also available for any questions regarding current clinical trials and the latest advances in the evaluation and management of hepatobiliary tumors.

All outpatients referred to the Dumont-UCLA Liver Cancer Center will be immediately scheduled for evaluation and will be seen within seven days of the initial referral. The center will accept inpatients in transfer with priority given to the most urgent cases. Emergency or urgent transfers can be arranged 24 hours a day. 

Contact Information

Telephone Numbers
(310) 825-1412 Information and referral
(310) 794-7788 Department of Surgery information and referral

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