Section of Hepatology, UC San Diego Health Systems, San Diego, California, USA.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the sixth most common cancer worldwide, with an increasing incidence projected through 2020. HCC is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Management of HCC is complicated by the fact that these patients also have a cirrhotic or otherwise diseased liver that led to the tumorigenesis. To aid in treatment decisions, several staging systems have been developed. In the United States, the Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) system has emerged as the predominant system, owing to its concomitant consideration of tumor stage, liver function, and physical status, as well as its ability to identify patients with early-stage disease who may benefit from curative therapies. Surveillance for HCC has gained increasing importance in light of several studies demonstrating both clinical and cost benefits. Once HCC is detected and diagnosed, it is usually managed according to its BCLC stage. Patients with early-stage disease often benefit from potentially curative therapies, such as surgical resection and liver transplantation. Often, local ablation such as radiofrequency ablation or percutaneous alcohol injection can be used not only as an effective treatment, but also as a bridge therapy to maintain the status of patients on the liver transplant list. Intermediate-stage patients are typically treated with transarterial chemoembolization, but have a high rate of disease recurrence. The multikinase inhibitor sorafenib is the only treatment option approved for patients with advanced-stage HCC. Sorafenib has demonstrated a significant survival advantage in these patients. Numerous studies have evaluated other novel targeted therapies in this setting, but none have shown superiority to sorafenib.