Department of Radiation Oncology, Yonsei Cancer Center, Yonsei University College of Medicine Seoul, Republic of Korea.
The Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) staging system is the method currently used to stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and therefore plays an important role in deciding on an appropriate course of treatment. BCLC takes into consideration the extent of the disease as well as patient factors such as hepatic function and performance status. However, it does not propose solutions for all clinical situations. Although radiotherapy (RT) is not included in the BCLC guidelines, the potent local antitumor effect of RT should be considered seriously as a part of the treatment strategy. Novel RT technologies introduced during the last decade have made it possible to deliver higher doses of radiation to the tumor while avoiding damage to critical normal tissues adjacent to the tumor. Because of the growing interest in using RT for HCC patients unfit for or progressed beyond standard treatments, the role of RT for HCC patients needs to be specified within the BCLC staging system. Curative RT can be used for patients with either very early or early stage BCLC; focal high dose RTs, such as stereotactic body RT, are especially useful. Intermediate or advanced stage disease confined to the liver can be managed safely and effectively by localized RT in conjunction with other treatment modalities such as transarterial chemoembolization or concurrent or adjuvant chemotherapy. In this review, the efficacy of RT in each BCLC stage of HCC will be discussed.