Imaging of hepatic toxicity of systemic therapy in a tertiary cancer centre: chemotherapy, haematopoietic stem cell transplantation, molecular targeted therapies, and immune checkpoint inhibitors

Clin Radiol. 2017 Jul;72(7):521-533. doi: 10.1016/j.crad.2017.04.003. Epub 2017 May 2.


The purpose of this review is to familiarise radiologists with the spectrum of hepatic toxicity seen in the oncology setting, in view of the different systemic therapies used in cancer patients. Drug-induced liver injury can manifest in various forms, and anti-neoplastic agents are associated with different types of hepatotoxicity. Although chemotherapy-induced liver injury can present as hepatitis, steatosis, sinusoidal obstruction syndrome, and chronic parenchymal damages, molecular targeted therapy-associated liver toxicity ranges from mild liver function test elevation to fulminant life-threatening acute liver failure. The recent arrival of immune checkpoint inhibitors in oncology has introduced a new range of immune-related adverse events, with differing mechanisms of liver toxicity and varied imaging presentation of liver injury. High-dose chemotherapy regimens for haematopoietic stem cell transplantation are associated with sinusoidal obstruction syndrome. Management of hepatic toxicity depends on the clinical scenario, the drug in use, and the severity of the findings. In this article, we will (1) present the most common types of oncological drugs associated with hepatic toxicity and associated liver injuries; (2) illustrate imaging findings of hepatic toxicities and the possible differential diagnosis; and (3) provide a guide for management of these conditions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Cancer Care Facilities
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / diagnostic imaging*
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / etiology*
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / therapy
  • Decision Trees
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Humans
  • Ipilimumab
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Nivolumab
  • Tertiary Care Centers


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Ipilimumab
  • Nivolumab
  • pembrolizumab