Transarterial chemoembolization: Evidences from the literature and applications in hepatocellular carcinoma patients

World J Hepatol. 2015 Aug 8;7(16):2009-19. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v7.i16.2009.


Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) is the current standard of care for patients with large or multinodular hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), preserved liver function, absence of cancer-related symptoms and no evidence of vascular invasion or extrahepatic spread (i.e., those classified as intermediate stage according to the Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer staging system). The rationale for TACE is that the intra-arterial injection of a chemotherapeutic drug such as doxorubicin or cisplatin followed by embolization of the blood vessel will result in a strong cytotoxic effect enhanced by ischemia. However, TACE is a very heterogeneous operative technique and varies in terms of chemotherapeutic agents, treatment devices and schedule. In order to overcome the major drawbacks of conventional TACE (cTACE), non-resorbable drug-eluting beads (DEBs) loaded with cytotoxic drugs have been developed. DEBs are able to slowly release the drug upon injection and increase the intensity and duration of ischemia while enhancing the drug delivery to the tumor. Unfortunately, despite the theoretical advantages of this new device and the promising results of the pivotal studies, definitive data in favor of its superiority over cTACE are still lacking. The recommendation for TACE as the standard-of-care for intermediate-stage HCC is based on the demonstration of improved survival compared with best supportive care or suboptimal therapies in a meta-analysis of six randomized controlled trials, but other therapeutic options (namely, surgery and radioembolization) proved competitive in selected subsets of intermediate HCC patients. Other potential fields of application of TACE in hepato-oncology are the pre-transplant setting (as downstaging/bridging treatment) and the early stage (in patients unsuitable to curative therapy). The potential of TACE in selected advanced patients with segmental portal vein thrombosis and preserved liver function deserves further reports.

Keywords: Hepatocarcinoma; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Liver cancer; Loco-regional treatment; Radiofrequency ablation; Transarterial chemoembolization.

Publication types

  • Review