Patients at an east London hospital who are suffering from a rare and difficult-to-treat form of cancer have had their life expectancy extended thanks to a new method of treatment.

Several people who were treated for cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) at Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone over the past three years have lived for up to two years afterwards.

Historically, patients with this form of cancer lived for an average of four months.

Cholangiocarcinoma, where the main liver tubes become blocked causing liver failure, affects about two out of every 100,000 people every year.

Drainage tubes (stents) are inserted through the cancer to unblock the liver, meaning people are no longer at risk of liver failure.

Traditionally when more than one stent is required, this has been done by inserting them through the skin into the liver and then into the intestine, a method associated with severe complications that reduce a person’s life expectancy.

After doctors at Whipps used an endoscope inserted through patients’ mouths to place two stents into each side of the liver internally they saw dramatic results.

The new method reduces the risk of bleeding and damage to other organs and means multiple stents can be inserted during one procedure.

Dr Sudeep Tanwar, consultant gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Barts Health NHS Trust, said: “This is great news for our patients with this form of cancer.

“The complex blockages due to this liver cancer places them at on-going risk of blood poisoning (sepsis), jaundice and liver failure.

“Thanks to this less-invasive procedure - with fewer complications compared to the traditional stenting - I’m delighted that we’re seeing a significant increase in the survival of our patients.”