Radio-wave treatment shows some promise against liver cancer

New research from the Wake Forest School of Medicine has shown that targeted radio wave treatments are safe to use against hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, and shows benefits for the patient’s overall survival rates.

Image credits Qasim Zafar / Flickr.

The researchers used a hand-held device called TheraBionic P1, produced by TheraBionic GmbH in Ettlingen that works by delivering specific, amplitude-modulated radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (AM RF EMF), meant specifically for use against HCC.

Radio treatment

“HCC accounts for nearly 90% of all liver cancers, and current survival rates are between six and 20 months,” said Boris Pasche, M.D., Ph.D., chair of cancer biology and director of Wake Forest Baptist’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Currently, there are limited treatment options for patients with this advanced liver cancer.”

“Our findings show an improvement in overall survival of more than 30% in patients with well-preserved liver function and also in those with more severe disease”.

This device emits radio waves that are spread through the patient’s body in an attempt to inhibit the growth of liver cancer cells without damaging healthy ones. A spoon-shaped antenna is placed under each patient’s tongue during the treatment, which is administered in three one-hour sessions per day. According to the paper, the low-level radiofrequency electromagnetic fields emitted by the antenna spread through the patient’s body.

Previously, the device was proven to be effective at blocking the growth of liver cancer cells, and it received breakthrough designation from the FDA in 2019.

The current study worked with 18 patients with advanced HCC, all of whom were enrolled for this type of treatment. Data from another 41 patients from a previous phase II study, as well as data from control participants from earlier clinical trials, was also factored into the study. 

Although the authors also kept an eye out for side effects, no patients stopped the treatment due to adverse reactions. The team reports that participants’ overall survival showed an improvement, although how much depended on their baseline health conditions at the start of the trial. Those who still maintained high levels of liver functionality showed a roughly 30% improvement in survival odds.

While the results are quite exciting, especially in conjunction with previous research on the subject, there is still a long way to go. The current study is limited by the small sample size used and “selection bias inherent in the use of historical control data”, according to Pasche.

The paper “Safety and Efficacy of amplitude-modulated radiofrequency electromagnetic fields in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma” has been published in the journal 4open.

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