Department of General and Transplant Surgery, Ruprecht-Karls-University, Heidelberg, Germany.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common malignancies, with an increasing incidence. With advances in surgical techniques and instrumentation and the development of molecular-target drugs, a number of potentially curative treatments have become available. Management of HCC patients depends on the stage of their tumor. Liver resection remains the first choice for very early-stage HCC, but it is being challenged by local ablative therapy. For early-stage HCC that meet the Milan criteria, liver transplantation still offers a better outcome; however, local ablative therapy can be a substitute when transplantation is not feasible. Local ablation is also used as a bridging therapy toward liver transplantation. HCC recurrence is the main obstacle to successful treatment, and there is currently no effective means of preventing or treating HCC recurrence. Transarterial therapy is considered suitable for intermediate-stage HCC, while sorafenib is recommended for advanced-stage HCC. This stage-based approach to therapy not only provides acceptable outcomes but also improves the quality of life of HCC patients. Because of the complexity of HCC, therapeutic approaches must be adapted according to the characteristics of each individual patient. This review discusses the current standards and trends in the treatment of HCC.