Boxer Joe Frazier Dies of Liver Cancer

Liver Cancer

It was announced that boxer Joe Frazier died of liver cancer. The 67 year old boxer was reported to have a “short” bout with liver cancer that ended his life quickly.

As of this morning, there is no mention as to they type of cancer that he suffered from. Liver cancer, also called hepatocellular carcinoma, or hepatoma, is cancer that originates in the liver, opposed to metastatic liver cancer that starts elsewhere, and then spreads to the liver. Colon and breast cancer are two cancers that commonly spread to the liver.

Primary liver cancer in the majority of cases is related to underlying chronic liver disease, caused by chronic viral hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Alcoholic liver disease is also a strong risk factor for developing hepatocellular carcinoma.

Treatment for liver cancer depends on the stage of the disease. In patients without cirrhosis and small tumors, surgical resection is a possible consideration. In those with advanced liver disease and cirrhosis, local therapy with chemotherapy, also known as transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), is usually the first line of therapy. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is an alternative option to locally treat the tumor. Liver transplantation, where the entire liver is removed, will be considered in those with signs of advanced liver disease or cirrhosis.

Recently, there has been FDA approval of Nexavar (sorafenib) for the treatment of liver cancer.

Nexavar® (sorafenib) tablets, is approved in more than 100 countries for the treatment for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer, and for patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC), or kidney cancer.

The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for primary liver cancer and intrahepatic bile duct cancer in the United States are for 2010:

About 24,120 new cases (17,430 in men and 6,690 in women) will be diagnosed
About 18,910 people (12,720 men and 6,190 women) will die of these cancers
The percentage of Americans developing liver cancer has been rising slowly for several decades.

If you have any form of chronic liver disease, chronic alcoholism, chronic hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or cirrhosis, you need to be regularly screened for liver cancer. A blood test called alpha fetoprotein should be done at six month intervals, which tests for the presence of liver cancer, and imaging of the liver with either ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI should also be done at six month intervals. The development of a small tumor, should one develop, allows for the greatest chance that early treatment can be initiated and survival can be at its highest level.

I am currently at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in San Francisco, and there is an enormous amount of research being presented on expanding therapies for liver cancer. Why Joe Frazier presented so late with his disease is a question we may never know for sure. While aggressive forms of liver cancer do exist, and in the best of situations there is little to do as a result of its rapid advancement. The more common story I see every day is one of lack of awareness, lack of screening, and a very late presentation.

Awareness of the presence of liver disease and appropriate screening saves lives.

Your feedback is welcomed.

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4 Responses to “Boxer Joe Frazier Dies of Liver Cancer”

  1. KH 11/08/2011 at 1:11 pm #

    I do work with hepatitis in advocacy and education. I just found an article from 1978 online that says Joe Frazier had hepatitis and it kept him from fighting. Wish more folks with Hep would speak out about it and encourage testing and treatment.

  2. Murat 01/06/2012 at 5:53 am #


    An experimental vaccine against the chronic liver disease hepatitis C has shown promising results in its first clinical trial in humans. Authors steated that, the outside shell of the hepatitis C virus is very variable thus there is still a long way to go before clinical use of effective vaccine. (Source: Catharine Paddock PhD. (2012, January 6). “Hep C Vaccine Shows Promise In First Trial.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from

    I hope soon to develop a vaccine against hepatitis C virus.



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