Hepatobiliary -- Clinical Research Program

Hepatobiliary cancers include those of the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas. Our research team also develops treatments for metastatic cancers that arise elsewhere in the body and spread to these organs.

Our team has developed techniques that spare healthy tissue during surgery and result in reduced blood loss. In addition, we have been at the forefront of nonsurgical approaches such as tumor embolization, radiofrequency ablation, and cryosurgery. We have also pioneered innovative chemotherapy approaches for these cancers, including new methods of delivering anticancer agents directly to the liver. Research by our pathologists and radiologists has led to advances in diagnostic and prognostic approaches.

Among our recent research accomplishments:

Imaging

  • We have found that positron emission tomography imaging of radiolabeled fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG-PET) can provide staging information and help the detection of recurrent disease in patients with biliary cancer. In patients with potentially resectable tumors, FDG-PET identified occult metastatic disease and changed management in nearly one-fourth of all patients. J Am Coll Surg. 2008 Jan;206(1):57-65. [PubMed Abstract]
  • In a phase II study of patients with unresectable primary liver cancer who underwent hepatic arterial infusion chemotherapy, we have found that dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (DCE-MRI) could serve as a biomarker of treatment outcome. Noninvasive imaging of tumor microvasculature by DCE-MRI could be used to assess global tumor perfusion before treatment, as well as changes in tumor permeability after treatment, both of which are predicative of survival. Ann Oncol. 2009 Jun 2. [PubMed Abstract]

Local and Regional Treatment

  • Our study also showed that patients with unresectable primary liver cancer can be treated safely and effectively with hepatic arterial infusion of the chemotherapy agents floxuridine and dexamethasone. We observed a response rate to the treatment of approximately 50 percent, and an overall survival of nearly 30 months. Ann Oncol. 2009 Jun 2. [PubMed Abstract]