Treatment of intermediate-stage hepatocellular carcinoma

Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2014 Sep;11(9):525-35. doi: 10.1038/nrclinonc.2014.122. Epub 2014 Aug 5.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)-closely associated with liver cirrhosis and, in fact, the main cause of death in patients with such disease-is now recognized as one of the most-prevalent and lethal neoplasms worldwide. Prognosis and allocation of the multiple available treatment options for patients with HCC are influenced not only by tumour stage, but also by the degree of liver-function impairment. Therefore, accurate assessment and classification of disease is important for patient management. According to the Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) algorithm, intermediate-stage HCC is defined as extensive multifocal disease without vascular invasion in patients with preserved liver function and absence of cancer-related symptoms; in this context, transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) is considered the standard treatment. The use of drug-eluting beads has enabled standardization of this procedure, resulting in higher reproducibility and tolerability of the treatment. Nevertheless, not all patients with intermediate-stage HCC are good candidates for TACE and, for such patients in whom TACE is not appropriate or has failed, other treatments can be considered, including sorafenib. Radioembolization is a promising alternative that deserves further prospective studies. Herein, we review the current approaches used to accurately stratify patients with intermediate-stage HCC and subsequently allocate the most-appropriate treatments. The key developments in therapeutic strategies are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / classification
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / physiopathology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / therapy*
  • Chemoembolization, Therapeutic*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / classification
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Neoplasm Staging / methods
  • Niacinamide / analogs & derivatives
  • Niacinamide / therapeutic use
  • Phenylurea Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Sorafenib
  • Yttrium Radioisotopes / administration & dosage


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Phenylurea Compounds
  • Yttrium Radioisotopes
  • Niacinamide
  • Sorafenib