Surgery for Hepatocellular Carcinoma With Macroscopic Vascular Invasion in the Era of Modern Molecular Therapy

Anticancer Res. 2023 Oct;43(10):4285-4293. doi: 10.21873/anticanres.16623.


It has been reported that patients with macroscopic vascular invasion accompanying hepatocellular carcinoma have a poor prognosis. Modern molecular therapy with multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitors and immune checkpoint inhibitors has shown promising results in patients with metastatic hepatocellular carcinoma; however, molecular therapy is limited to patients with Child-Pugh class A disease. This review summarizes the present status of surgical therapies, including conversion hepatectomy, for patients with MVI in the developing era of novel molecular therapy. Phase III studies showed patients with macroscopic vascular invasion had significant survival benefits from sorafenib [hazard ratio (HR)=0.68] and regorafenib (HR=0.67) versus placebo, and nivolumab (HR=0.74) versus sorafenib. Lenvatinib and atezolizumab plus bevacizumab showed marginal effects. It is currently widely assumed that molecular therapy alone will not cure the disease but that additional conversion hepatectomy will be required. A response other than progressive disease is essential but a pathological complete response is not always required. A significant randomized controlled trial has already started in China to assess the necessity for conversion hepatectomy after effective atezolizumab plus bevacizumab treatment, and the results are still awaited. According to Japanese national data, upfront hepatectomy can be recommended for patients with initially resectable disease and macroscopic vascular invasion other than for those with tumors in the main portal vein and the inferior vena cava. In addition, adequate adjuvant therapies with hepatic arterial chemotherapy and transarterial chemoembolization may be beneficial but an effective adjuvant molecular therapy is currently unavailable. In conclusion, novel molecular therapies with higher response rates customized to the oncologic characteristics of each hepatocellular carcinoma with macroscopic vascular invasion are needed to increase the likelihood of conversion surgery and improve long-term outcomes.

Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma; liver resection; macroscopic vascular invasion; molecular therapy; review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bevacizumab / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / surgery
  • Chemoembolization, Therapeutic* / methods
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Liver Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sorafenib / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Sorafenib
  • Bevacizumab