Studies show a new non-surgical treatment for liver cancer can at least slow the usually fatal disease and is "better than anything else around," a researcher reported.

Dr. Alan Venook of the University of California, San Francisco, stressed this week that the treatment - called chemo-embolization - was not a cure for hepatocellular carcinoma, which afflicts 4,000 Americans each year and is the eighth most common cancer known to mankind.Hepatocellular carcinoma is a cancer that originates in the liver rather than spreading to the organ from another part of the body.

The new technique elicited "some response" from 22 of 30 patients, whose tumor either shrank or stopped growing, said Venook, a member of the UCSF Cancer Research Institute.

"It is very rare that we can cure a person with this kind of cancer." Venook said.

Chemo-embolization combines several different drugs with tiny beads of harmless starch injected into the major artery supplying the liver. The beads dam up the artery, cutting off the blood supply to the tumor and allowing the drugs to remain in direct contact with the cancer longer than was possible with previous treatments, Venook explained.