Neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapy for resectable hepatocellular carcinoma: review of the randomised clinical trials

Lancet Oncol. 2002 Oct;3(10):593-603. doi: 10.1016/s1470-2045(02)00873-2.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is common worldwide, and its incidence is increasing. Liver resection or transplantation is potentially curative, although subsequent recurrence and death are common. We reviewed randomised trials on the role of adjuvant therapy in resectable HCC. We identified 13 randomised trials with recurrence or survival endpoints reported at 3 years or longer. Three studies involved predominantly systemic adjuvant chemotherapy; four involved predominantly hepatic-artery-based chemotherapy or embolisation; and six used other therapeutic modalities including immunological, radiation, and differentiation agents. A therapeutic benefit in terms of disease-free or overall survival was noted in six trials, five of which involved modalities other than systemic or hepatic-artery chemotherapy or embolisation. We conclude that systemic and hepatic-artery chemotherapy or chemoembolisation have not been shown to improve overall or disease-free survival after resection of HCC, although there has been no definitive trial comparing adjuvant systemic chemotherapy with no treatment. Other adjuvant modalities (mostly tested in small, preliminary settings) may confer benefit after potentially curative resection of HCC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / radiotherapy
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / surgery
  • Chemoembolization, Therapeutic
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Research Design
  • Survival Analysis