Multimodal approaches to the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma

Nat Clin Pract Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009 Mar;6(3):159-69. doi: 10.1038/ncpgasthep1357. Epub 2009 Feb 3.


The prevalence of hepatocellular carcinoma in Europe and the US is increasing and is currently the leading cause of death in patients with cirrhosis. Surveillance programs for patients with cirrhosis aim to detect tumors at an early stage, when the greatest therapeutic benefits can be achieved. Curative treatments for early-stage tumors include liver transplantation, resection and percutaneous ablation. Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) and sorafenib can improve survival for patients with intermediate and advanced tumors, respectively. In clinical practice, combination therapies are often used, despite limited evidence to support this approach from randomized controlled trials. Combination therapy with radiofrequency ablation (RFA) plus percutaneous ethanol injection can, however, improve survival for selected patients compared with RFA alone. Combined treatment with TACE and RFA also improves patients' survival compared with TACE or RFA monotherapy. TACE performed before or after surgical resection, however, is not beneficial. Prevention of tumor progression in patients awaiting liver transplantation requires nonsurgical treatments; however, the real advantages of the available treatment modalities are yet to be defined. The role of sorafenib administration in combination with TACE after the use of potentially curative treatments, for the treatment of intermediate hepatocellular carcinoma, or in selective settings after liver transplantation, requires further study.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Benzenesulfonates / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / therapy*
  • Catheter Ablation
  • Chemoembolization, Therapeutic
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Embolization, Therapeutic
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Injections
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Liver Transplantation / methods
  • Niacinamide / analogs & derivatives
  • Phenylurea Compounds
  • Preoperative Care
  • Pyridines / therapeutic use
  • Radiotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Salvage Therapy
  • Sorafenib
  • Waiting Lists


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Benzenesulfonates
  • Phenylurea Compounds
  • Pyridines
  • Niacinamide
  • Ethanol
  • Sorafenib