According to a story from the St. Helens Star, Amanda Sackville-Wiggins was diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma, a rare type of liver cancer, just after her 21st birthday. The cancer was advanced and had spread to her lungs and lymph nodes. However, Amanda is not alone. Her sister Rhiannon is reaching out to the local community for the £80,000 needed to fund an immunotherapy treatment that is not covered on the National Health Service (NHS).
Fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma is a very rare type of hepatocellular carcinoma that often appears in young adults. It is characterized by fibrous layers between the tumor cells. Only about 200 cases are diagnosed each year across the planet. The cancer’s cause is not clearly understood, but it may have a genetic basis, as fusion between the DNAJB1 and PRKACA genes was present in all tumors examined in multiple studies. It rarely presents symptoms until it has become advanced and has spread. Typical markers for liver disease may not appear; symptoms include anemia, deep vein thrombosis, liver failure, fluid buildup in the abdomen, and jaundice. Fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma tumors can often be surgically removed, but may have to be done multiple times, as the cancer can recur. Five year survival ranges from 40 to 90 percent, and is largely dependent on whether the cancer has spread. To learn more about fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, click here.
While surgical removal is the most common treatment, more treatment will be required if the cancer has metastasized. There is no standard chemotherapy regimen for the rare cancer type. Amanda was in the middle of her third year taking animal welfare classes at John Moores University when she got diagnosed on March 20th. This was just two days after Amanda and Rhiannon’s birthday.
Rhiannon says that while her sister has been okay since the diagnosis, she still suffers from bouts of abdominal pain. None of the doctors that she has been seeing have experience with fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma.
If you would like to donate to help fund Amanda’s treatment, click here.