Liver Tumor Program Addresses Escalating Problem

Liver Tumor Program physicians (from left): Adam Yopp, M.D.; Amit Singal, M.D.; Muhammad Shaalan Beg, M.D.; and Jorge Marrero, M.D.

Although rare, liver cancer is one of the fastest growing cancer types in the United States, and it’s a particular issue in Texas, which currently has the second-highest incidence of disease and prevalence in the country. With increased attention to liver disease and treatment options, UT Southwestern has established a multidisciplinary liver tumor program. 

The Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center’s Multidisciplinary Liver Tumor Program at UT Southwestern offers the latest in evaluation and treatment of known or suspected tumors or masses in the liver. 

“Treatment for liver cancer often involves multiple disciplines, including transplant hepatology, surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, interventional radiology, pathology, radiology, and palliative care,” says Amit Singal, M.D., Medical Director of the Liver Tumor Program and Assistant Professor of Digestive and Liver Diseases. “The purpose of our clinic is to simplify the treatment process for patients and bring all providers to them in a one-stop shop.” 

One of only several programs of its kind in the country, UT Southwestern’s multidisciplinary approach is truly unique. 

“Because the hepatologist, surgeon, oncologist, and interventional radiologist all review the patient’s file prior to his or her appointment, the patient will see all the appropriate physicians in one clinic setting and walk out with a treatment plan and procedure appointment in one visit,” says Adam Yopp, M.D., Surgical Director of the Liver Tumor Program and Assistant Professor of Surgery. “I believe this saves valuable time and improves survival.” 

Accepting At-Risk Referrals

Appropriate patient referrals include those with suspected primary liver cancer, including hepatocellular carcinoma, cholangiocarcinoma, and fibrolamellar carcinoma. Additionally, the team will evaluate and treat patients with benign liver tumors or those with unknown liver masses. 

The most common risk factor for liver cancer in the United States is cirrhosis, which can be caused by multiple etiologies, including hepatitis C, hepatitis B, alcohol abuse, fatty liver disease, and genetic predisposition. Between 2 percent and 4 percent of patients with cirrhosis develop hepatocellular carcinoma each year.

Early Detection Is Key

Elevated tumor markers in routine blood work can indicate a need for an assessment.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Weight loss
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Jaundice

“Most patients with liver cancer are asymptomatic until the cancer is large, so it is essential that screening is proactive in at-risk individuals,” says Dr. Singal. “If a tumor is found early, it could be cured through ablation, resection, or liver transplant.” 

He adds, “Seventy percent of patients treated with early-stage disease will have at least a five-year survival rate. Unfortunately, screening is often not performed and most patients are found at advanced stages, when treatments are less effective.” 

Being treated at the UTSW Liver Tumor Program allows access to clinical trials not offered at other facilities in Texas or surrounding states. Minimally invasive surgical techniques, including laparoscopic and robotic hepatectomy, are often used, and access to liver transplantation is available for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma.

Request an Appointment

For an appointment at our facility in Dallas or for more information about our gastrointestinal cancer services, request an appointment online or call 214-645-8300.