An extra layer of support for patients with liver cancer

By Teri Dulong-Rae; Danielle Noreika, M.D.; Hannah M. Lee, M.D.; Joel Wedd, M.D., Richard K. Sterling, M.D., M.Sc.

Patients with liver cancer face challenging symptoms and other quality-of-life issues from their cancer as well as any other chronic liver disease they may have, such as cirrhosis. To improve liver cancer care at all stages of illness, specialists from the Stravitz-Sanyal Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health, the VCU Liver Tumor Program, the VCU Hume-Lee Transplant Center, and VCU Massey Cancer Center’s palliative care program work together. 
Treating liver cancer requires a team of experts, including specialists in liver disease, cancer care, surgery and transplantation, psychology and social work, and other specialties. When patients have access to palliative care along with active treatment for their cancer, this team approach can improve their quality-of-life and help manage symptoms. In a pilot study of 28 hospitalized patients with end-stage-liver-disease, worse quality-of-life and more suffering was associated with readmission after discharge, making a case for palliative care in this population at high risk for liver cancer.

Our experts recently published a review of current practices in which we shared a vision for the future, including partnership opportunities for liver cancer and palliative care teams. We hope to use the lessons learned from the pilot study to create a roadmap for chronic liver disease care with a focus on liver cancer.

Our teams collaborate to design and provide a progressive, holistic approach to care for the unique needs of patients with liver cancer. Through our partnerships, we strive to lead the nation in patient quality-of-life, caregiver support, and cutting-edge treatments for liver cancer patients.

This is based on a review commissioned for the series “Comprehensive Care for Patients with Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Insights from the 2022 San Antonio Liver Cancer Symposium,” published
in Annals of Palliative Medicine.