According to a story from Financial Buzz, the drug development company Eisai and Merck recently announced that their cancer drug lenvatinib, marketed as LENVIMA,® has gained marketing approval from the European Commission as a treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma that cannot be treated with surgery. This drug is the first treatment in over decade that has shown significant benefit for patients whose cancer cannot be treated with surgery.
About Hepatocellular Carcinoma
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common liver cancer that occurs in adults, although it is still generally considered rare. In people with cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common cause of death. Cirrhosis is the most direct cause of this cancer, so any chronic condition or disease of the liver that can lead to it should be regarded as a risk factor. These include chronic hepatitis, severe alcohol abuse, certain genetic disorders, diabetes, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, and iron overload. Symptoms include abdominal swelling, easy bruising, jaundice, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, abdominal pain, appetite loss, and vomiting. Treatment options for hepatocellular carcinoma include surgery, ablation, and liver transplant. Survival rates are poor, particularly for disease that can’t be cured by surgery. Most patients not eligible for surgery are dead in a matter of months, although survival time can vary. To learn more about hepatocellular carcinoma, click here.
More Treatments Needed
There is a clear need for more effective treatment options for hepatocellular carcinoma, as the vast majority of patients are not eligible for surgery. The numbers reflect the lethal nature of this disease. On average, about 71,000 new cases are diagnosed in Europe each year, and in that same time period, hepatocellular carcinoma is responsible for 69,000 deaths.
Lenvatinib is also approved as a treatment for this cancer in the US and Japan. There are also a number of other countries where the company is seeking to gain approval for the drug. Lenvatinib offers a new treatment option for patients who otherwise have very little hope of modifying their disease and staying alive. While this drug is not going to cure most patients of their disease, it can substantially improve their survival time.