Hepatocellular carcinoma: therapy and prevention

World J Gastroenterol. 2005 Dec 21;11(47):7391-400. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v11.i47.7391.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common malignant tumors worldwide. The major etiologies and risk factors for the development of HCC are well defined and some of the multiple steps involved in hepatocarcinogenesis have been elucidated in recent years. Despite these scientific advances and the implementation of measures for the early detection of HCC in patients at risk, patient survival has not improved during the last three decades. This is due to the advanced stage of the disease at the time of clinical presentation and limited therapeutic options. The therapeutic options fall into five main categories: surgical interventions including tumor resection and liver transplantation, percutaneous interventions including ethanol injection and radiofrequency thermal ablation, transarterial interventions including embolization and chemoembolization, radiation therapy and drugs as well as gene and immune therapies. These therapeutic strategies have been evaluated in part in randomized controlled clinical trials that are the basis for therapeutic recommendations. Though surgery, percutaneous and transarterial interventions are effective in patients with limited disease (1-3 lesions, <5 cm in diameter) and compensated underlying liver disease (cirrhosis Child A), at the time of diagnosis more than 80% patients present with multicentric HCC and advanced liver disease or comorbidities that restrict the therapeutic measures to best supportive care. In order to reduce the morbidity and mortality of HCC, early diagnosis and the development of novel systemic therapies for advanced disease, including drugs, gene and immune therapies as well as primary HCC prevention are of paramount importance. Furthermore, secondary HCC prevention after successful therapeutic interventions needs to be improved in order to make an impact on the survival of patients with HCC. New technologies, including gene expression profiling and proteomic analyses, should allow to further elucidate the molecular events underlying HCC development and to identify novel diagnostic markers as well as therapeutic and preventive targets.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / prevention & control*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy*