Current Treatment Modalities for Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Ann Surg. 1994 Mar;219(3):236-47. doi: 10.1097/00000658-199403000-00003.


Objective: This study evaluated the currently available treatment modalities for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Summary background data: One of the most common tumors worldwide, HCC has several known risk factors. Untreated HCC typically has a dismal prognosis. Early detection remains the key to successful treatment of this malignancy. Surgical resection has been the mainstay of treatment for HCC, but newer modalities have been recently introduced.

Methods: The authors evaluated the treatment modalities for HCC.

Results: Surgical resection affords 5-year survival rates as high as 45% with more favorable subgroups having 1) small tumors, 2) well-differentiated tumors, 3) unifocal tumors, 4) lack of vascular invasion, 5) absence of cirrhosis, and 6) the fibrolamellar variant (FL-HCC). Resection has been limited primarily by low resectability rates and recurrent disease. Newer therapeutic modalities that appear the most promising are transarterial chemoembolization and percutaneous ethanol injection. Neither therapy has been evaluated in a prospective randomized manner. Combination chemotherapy and surgical intervention may provide the best results, but randomized controlled trials with long-term follow-up are needed. As single-treatment modalities, radiation therapy, intravenous chemotherapy, intra-arterial chemotherapy, and immunotherapy play limited palliative roles.

Conclusions: Surgical resection in the form of partial or total hepatectomy is the preferred treatment for HCC. The early detection of tumors by screening high-risk populations is crucial. Randomized trials of combinations of chemotherapy and surgical resection are needed to demonstrate their potential utility for treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / surgery
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / therapy*
  • Chemoembolization, Therapeutic
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Ethanol / therapeutic use
  • Hepatectomy
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intralesional
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Liver Transplantation


  • Ethanol