Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) represents the current gold standard for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients in intermediate stage. Conventional TACE (cTACE) is performed with the injection of an emulsion of a chemotherapeutic drug with lipiodol into the artery feeding the tumoral nodules, followed by embolization of the same vessel to obtain a synergistic effect of drug cytotoxic activity and ischemia. Aim of this review is to summarize the main characteristics of drug-eluting beads (DEB)-TACE and the clinical results reported so far in the literature. A literature search was conducted using PubMed until June 2017. In order to overcome the drawbacks of cTACE, namely lack of standardization and unpredictability of outcomes, non-absorbable embolic microspheres charged with cytotoxic agents (DEBs) have been developed. DEBs are able to simultaneously exert both the therapeutic components of TACE, either drug-carrier function and embolization, unlike cTACE in which applying the embolic agent is a second moment after drug injection. This way, risk of systemic drug release is minimal due to both high-affinity carrier activity of DEBs and absence of a time interval between injection and embolization. However, despite promising results of preliminary studies, clear evidence of superiority of DEB-TACE over cTACE is still lacking. A number of novel technical devices are actually in development in the field of loco-regional treatments for HCC, but only a few of them have entered the clinical arena. In absence of well-designed randomized-controlled trials, the decision on whether use DEB-TACE or cTACE is still controversial.
Keywords: Conventional; Doxorubicin; Embolization; Hepatocarcinoma; Liver cancer; Survival.