This study investigates the possible molecular basis leading to failure in a treatment that is composed of hypoxia and chemotherapy in a rat orthotopic hepatoma model. Hypoxia was induced by hepatic artery ligation, whereas chemotherapeutic effect was achieved by intraportal injection of cisplatin. High-dose sodium salicylate was administered to achieve transcriptional blockade. Significant prolongation of animal survival was observed in the groups receiving hepatic artery ligation with cisplatin or sodium salicylate. Massive tumor cell necrosis and apoptosis were found in the ligation and all of the combined treatment groups. Up-regulation of hypoxia inducible factor 1alpha (HIF-1alpha) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) at both mRNA and protein levels were detected in the groups receiving ligation and ligation with cisplatin, whereas a decreased level of von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein was identified in the group receiving ligation with cisplatin. Sodium salicylate enhanced expression of von Hippel-Lindau tumor suppressor protein but down-regulated HIF-1alpha and VEGF levels after ligation with or without cisplatin. An increased number of activated hepatic stellate cells in the tumors were observed in the ligation and ligation with cisplatin groups, whereas they were greatly reduced by sodium salicylate. In vitro study revealed that under hypoxic condition, both cisplatin and sodium salicylate could remarkably augment P53 and caspase 3 levels. Cisplatin stimulated HIF-1alpha up-regulation, whereas sodium salicylate suppressed HIF-1alpha expression. In conclusion, tumor progression after hypoxia and chemotherapy might be related to up-regulation of HIF-1alpha and subsequent VEGF production, and transcriptional blockade by sodium salicylate could enhance the therapeutic efficacy of hypoxia and chemotherapy.