A CHESTER professor is leading a team of researchers at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre spearheading a £4 million trial aimed at improving the survival chances of one of the deadliest types of cancer.

The Merseyside-led research will see more than 500 liver cancer patients from around the UK and France given a unique combination of drugs to see if it extends life.

Cancer that originates in the liver is uncommon, but the number of people with the disease in the UK is growing and Merseyside has a higher than average number of sufferers.

Professor Dan Palmer, consultant medical oncologist at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, is the lead clinician for the trial and the Wirral hospital will be lead NHS Trust.

Prof Palmer said: "Liver cancer survival rates are very low and it is a disease that is particularly prevalent in this region where there is a high burden of chronic liver disease.

"This research is aimed at determining if a new combination of drugs can prolong life.

"The fact this study is being led from Clatterbridge and managed by The Cancer Research UK Liverpool Cancer Trials Unit demonstrates the ongoing commitment to finding innovative treatments for what is a deadly form of cancer."

The study, entitled TACE-3, will involve patients with a type of liver cancer called intermediate (stage B) hepatocellular carcinoma. The average survival rate with the current treatment is 18 months.

Funded by pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb, this research hopes to improve this rate.

The best treatment offered currently for this type of tumour is called TransArterial ChemoEmbolisation (TACE) in which chemotherapy is delivered directly into the blood supply of the liver cancer.

The researchers want to find out if combining it with a new drug called Nivolumab can increase its effectiveness and so extend life.

Nivolumab is an immunotherapy drug that works by helping the immune system slow or stop the growth of cancer cells and it is predicted that combining it with TACE will make the cancer more visible to the immune systems and so more sensitive to the immune stimulating effects of Nivolumab.

The first patients will be recruited in September and the trial is due to last for five years.

It will be managed by The Cancer Research UK Liverpool Cancer Trials Unit and is supported by the Liverpool Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC).

The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre has today (Monday) marked International Clinical Trials Day, informing patients and visitors about the work taking place at the Trust to research new cancer treatments.

There are currently 98 studies open and recruiting patients, with 53 having been opened in 2017/18, the highest ever for Clatterbridge.