Treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma in Japan over the last three decades: Our experience and published work review

Hepatol Res. 2015 Jan;45(1):59-74. doi: 10.1111/hepr.12378. Epub 2014 Jul 18.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common causes of cancer-related mortality worldwide. In the last few decades, there has been a marked increase in therapeutic options for HCC and epidemiological characteristics at HCC diagnosis have also significantly changed. With these changes and advances in medical technology and surveillance program for detecting earlier stage HCC, survival in patients with HCC has significantly improved. Especially, patients with liver cirrhosis are at high risk of HCC development, and regular surveillance could enable early detection of HCC and curative therapy, with potentially improved clinical outcome. However, unfortunately, only 20% of HCC patients are amenable to curative therapy (liver transplantation, surgical resection or ablative therapies). Locoregional therapies such as radiofrequency ablation, percutaneous ethanol injection, microwave coagulation therapy and transcatheter arterial chemoembolization play a key role in the management of unresectable HCC. Currently, molecular-targeted agents such as sorafenib have emerged as a promising therapy for advanced HCC. The choice of the treatment modality depends on the size of the tumor, tumor location, anatomical considerations, number of tumors present and liver function. Furthermore, new promising therapies such as gene therapy and immunotherapy for HCC have emerged. Approaches to the HCC diagnosis and adequate management for patients with HCC are improving survival. Herein, we review changes of epidemiological characteristics, prognosis and therapies for HCC and refer to current knowledge for this malignancy based on our experience of approximately 4000 HCC cases over the last three decades.

Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma; progress; surveillance; three decades; treatment.