Liver Cancer

At NewYork-Presbyterian's Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation, people with liver cancer — including hepatocellular carcinoma and intrahepatic bile duct cancer — benefit from a team of healthcare professionals with exceptional experience diagnosing and treating benign and malignant liver tumors and liver metastases (cancers that spread to the liver from other sites). We are the leading New York site for liver transplantation, the only treatment available that treats both the liver cancer and the underlying liver disease. We also offer clinical trials of promising new treatment approaches to advance the field and to raise the survival rate of people with liver cancer and liver metastases. Our ultimate goal: to cure your cancer and maintain your quality of life.

A Team of Liver Cancer Experts

Our liver cancer team includes gastroenterologists, surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, interventional radiologists, and other specialists, creating a full team of healthcare professionals to provide the care you need. When planning your treatment, we consider the type, location, and stage of your cancer, as well as your age and physical health, to personalize the optimum care for your cancer.

Surveillance to Detect Liver Cancer Early

The most common causes of primary liver cancer are chronic infection with the hepatitis B and C viruses, excessive alcohol consumption, and fatty liver disease. NewYork-Presbyterian has an active surveillance program for people at risk of liver cancer, particularly those with chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C, with the hope of detecting the disease in its early, more curable stages.

Liver Cancer Surgery and Transplantation

Surgery is the preferred treatment for operable liver cancer and offers the best chance for long-term cure. Liver transplantation provides the ability to not only treat and cure the liver cancer but also to cure the underlying liver disease. Our surgeons use minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques for liver surgery whenever possible.

  • If you have minimal scarring in the liver, cancer can often be cured with surgery. We have one of the largest experiences with minimal invasive liver surgery in the country. We use robotic and laparoscopic techniques to minimize incision whenever possible.
  • If you have more advanced scarring or cirrhosis of the liver, you may be able to have a liver transplant, which is available through our Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation. We have one of the highest-volume liver transplant centers in the United States.

Please see our Liver Transplantation page for more information.

Embolization Therapies for Direct Tumor Treatment

If you have medical conditions that make surgery unsafe, you may receive chemoembolization. With this technique, we inject chemotherapy into the hepatic artery via a catheter (narrow tube). The chemotherapy is combined with a substance that blocks off this artery (usually temporarily), cutting off blood flow to the tumor and "starving" it. Much of the chemotherapy is trapped near the tumor, which works directly against your cancer while limiting the drug's contact with the rest of your body — resulting in fewer side effects than chemotherapies that are given systemically (throughout the whole body). In some cases, chemotherapy can reduce the size of a tumor enough that it can be surgically removed.

With radio arterial embolization, tiny spheres of a radioactive substance (yttrium-90) are delivered to the tumor via the hepatic artery. The radioactive substance then kills cancer cells.

Ablation therapies

Ablation is a minimally invasive treatment for small liver tumors (less than one and a half inches in diameter). This can be done with microwave or radiofrequency energy sources. These image-guided techniques heat and destroy cancer cells. Our specialists use imaging techniques such as ultrasound or computed tomography to help guide a needle electrode into the tumor. They then pass high-frequency electrical currents through the electrode, creating heat that destroys the abnormal cells.

Precision Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy for liver cancer at NewYork-Presbyterian includes intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which enables us to deliver precisely targeted radiation directly to the tumor while sparing nearby healthy tissue. We also offer stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) to send pencil-thin beams of radiation to target cancer.

Targeted Anticancer Drugs

Targeted therapies (also called biologic therapies) include drugs that specifically target cancer cells or impede the growth of the blood vessels a tumor needs to grow while sparing healthy cells. A few years ago, there were few anticancer drugs for tumors of the liver. But recently some novel therapies including specific targets for liver cancer and immunotherapy have been successfully used for patients with liver cancer and these are being explored in ongoing clinical trials. People living with liver cancer who take targeted therapies may experience a better quality of life.

Advanced Interventional Endoscopy for Bile Duct Blockages

Blockage of the bile duct is a potential complication of liver tumors, liver surgery, and bile duct cancer. Our interventional endoscopists often utilize endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to relieve bile duct obstructions. During this procedure, a physician inserts a stent into the duct to relieve the obstruction and allow drainage to proceed into the intestine, sparing the patient from having to wear an external bag on the abdomen to drain fluids. This approach improves the quality of life and relieves jaundice, pain, and other symptoms.

Expertise Treating Liver Metastases

The liver is a common site for cancer cells to travel to from other sites, such as the colon and breast. We have strong expertise in the treatment of liver metastases, especially those from colorectal cancer. We offer the latest approaches to improve the quality of life and extend survival.

  • Surgery. About 20 to 30 percent of colorectal cancer metastases in the liver can be surgically removed. Advances in surgical tools and techniques, better imaging, and a better understanding of liver anatomy now make it possible for our surgeons to remove up to 75 percent of a diseased liver while leaving the remaining healthy liver tissue to regenerate itself. Whenever possible, our liver surgeons remove colorectal liver metastases using minimally invasive laparoscopy. In conjunction with newer chemotherapy regimens and enhanced interventional radiology techniques, we have pushed the limits of surgery, and a growing number of patients with liver metastases whose tumors were once considered inoperable can now undergo surgery.
  • Systemic and intra-arterial chemotherapy. You may receive anticancer drugs intravenously (by vein) or by direct infusion into the main artery of your liver (the hepatic artery).
  • Radiation therapy. Your doctors will let you know if you could benefit from radiation therapy with IMRT or SBRT to destroy liver metastases.

Treating All of You

To support your quality of life, we offer palliative care, which includes services such as pain management. Our nutritionists, social workers, palliative care experts, and others will help you and your loved ones address the effects of cancer and its treatment—physical, emotional, and spiritual. We understand the burden cancer can place on your life and the lives of your loved ones, and we do whatever we can to lessen that burden.

Clinical Trials for Liver Cancer

NewYork-Presbyterian has a very active research program for people with primary liver cancer or liver metastases, offering access to some of the most important clinical trials in the country. The clinical trials we conduct give patients access to new therapies that may not be available at other medical centers. Your treatment team will let you know if you can receive an innovative investigational treatment by participating in a clinical trial.