Skip to cookie consent Skip to main content

Liver Cancer Treatment for International Patients

The gastrointestinal cancers program at Mass General Brigham is one of the largest and most experienced centers for the treatment of liver cancer. Our multidisciplinary team of medical oncologists, liver surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists and radiologists are ranked among the best in the country and offer the latest, most effective diagnostics and treatments for patients with liver cancer.

A woman in a hospital gown laying on table about to go receive treatment for liver cancer.

Types of liver cancer

Primary liver cancer forms in the tissues of the liver. Secondary liver cancer — far more common than primary liver cancer — is cancer that has spread (metastasized) to the liver from another part of the body. The two main types of primary liver cancer are:

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Cholangiocarcinoma, which starts in the bile ducts

Less common types of primary liver cancer include: 

  • Mixed hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma
  • Angiosarcoma
  • Hemangioendothelioma

Liver cancer was once thought to be untreatable. However, advances in medicine — including those developed here at Mass General Brigham — have resulted in new curative options that offer hope to patients.

Innovative approaches to liver cancer treatment

Our caring approach to liver cancer diagnosis and treatment includes many innovative approaches and promising new therapies. 

Our world-renowned pathologists and diagnostic radiologists use the most advanced techniques and imaging tools to quickly diagnose your tumor and detect tumor changes. They meet weekly with the entire care team to share information about your unique cancer and help guide treatment planning.

At Mass General Brigham, you will find all the latest liver cancer treatments. Your care team may use one or more of the following approaches to give you the best chance at a successful outcome. 

Medical oncologists at Mass General Brigham use the latest therapies available today and, on the horizon, to block mutations and pathways that cause tumor cells to proliferate in the liver. Targeting tumor gene mutations with these "smart drugs" allows us to eradicate malignant (cancerous) cells in the liver without using traditional chemotherapy and radiation. If needed, your doctor may recommend pre-operative chemotherapy to shrink liver cancer tumors before surgery to help surgeons ensure a complete removal.

Mass General Brigham surgeons have pioneered many now-standard open surgery procedures and minimally invasive surgical techniques that help patients recover faster and retain normal liver function. Our high-volume experience and advanced laparoscopic skills with liver surgeries help ensure the best possible outcome for each patient. 

Furthermore, our specially designed operating room allows our surgeons to work side by side with multiple surgical subspecialists during complex procedures. These include complex liver resections involving vascular reconstruction for patients with tumors that might have been deemed "unresectable."

In some instances, a liver transplant may be the best option, especially if you have small liver cancer. Our transplant program is among the longest-standing and most well-regarded liver transplant programs in the United States, and offers patients access to a large team of clinicians renowned for their liver cancer and liver transplantation expertise.

Your Mass General Brigham care team may recommend radiation therapy alone, or in combination with surgery and chemotherapy. Our radiation oncologists use the most advanced therapies to treat liver cancer, including: 

  • External beam therapy, which delivers high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells 
  • Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which matches the radiation beam to the shape of the tumor for more precise dose distribution

Some patients with liver cancer may be candidates for proton beam therapy. This advanced form of radiation treatment uses a high-energy, focused proton beam to target tumors with incredible precision. Compared with the use of X-ray beams, proton beam therapy reduces side effects because less radiation goes through the tumor and into normal surrounding tissue. It also delivers a greater concentration of radiation to the desired target, which may improve tumor control and the chance of a cure. 

Mass General Brigham is home to the only proton therapy site in New England and brings unparalleled experience in treating cancer with this approach. In fact, we were the world's first center to leverage high-energy protons for medical care. Learn more about proton beam therapy. 

Our comprehensive approach to liver cancer treatment includes additional modalities. For example, radiofrequency ablation is a nonsurgical option that may be right when surgery and/or chemotherapy are not well-tolerated. We also offer innovative endoscopy approaches through our advanced endoscopy program, as well as percutaneous portal vein embolization to induce liver regeneration before surgery.

A team of liver cancer experts all in one place

Meet Mass General Brigham's multidisciplinary team of liver cancer specialists.

Liver cancer care for international patients

Each year, thousands of patients from more than 120 countries travel to Mass General Brigham for medical care, second opinions and treatments unavailable anywhere else in the world. 

Mass General Brigham is experienced in caring for liver cancer patients who are traveling great distances to our hospitals in Boston. Your cancer team here and our international patient services team will help you prepare for and plan the appropriate amount of time to stay in Boston for your appointments, treatments and any recovery time. During this recovery time in Boston or back home in your country, our clinical team will monitor your well-being and progressions to continuously optimize your treatment plan and symptoms. 

Many of our international patients have questions about everything from travel and lodging to scheduling appointments. Our international patient services team is here to help. We look forward to making your Mass General Brigham experience as healing and stress-free as possible.

Importance of Teamwork and a Multidisciplinary Approach to Cancer Care

Dr. Ted Hong at the Mass General Cancer Center learned early on in his career to never say never. Follow Dr. Hong to learn how patients benefit from a patient-centric, team approach to care. Learn more about Dr. Hong’s passion for teamwork and about his relentless pursuit to provide the best patient care possible.