BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: To provide an overview on the loco-regional therapy performed by transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), either as sole, either as neoadjuvant to surgery or bridge therapy to orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT).
EVIDENCE AND INFORMATION SOURCES: The current review is based on an analysis of the current literature and the caseload experience of the Authors on this topic.
STATE OF THE ART: Chemoembolization combines de-arterialization of the tumor and selective delivery of chemotherapeutic agents into tumor's feeding vessels during angiography. Tumor ischemia raises the drug concentration compared to infusion alone and extends the retention of the chemotherapeutic drug. As locoregional therapy, TACE allows a complete local tumor control of 25-35% and permits an increase of survival in patients with intermediate HCC according to Barcelona-Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) classification. Excellent results were also achieved by combined therapies, such as with percutaneous ethanol injection or radiofrequency ablation, as neoadjuvant therapy prior to liver resection and in some circumstances as a bridging tool before liver transplantation.
PERSPECTIVES: Drug eluting beads are microspheres that can be loaded with doxorubicin and induce toxic and ischemic necrosis with the same device; that allows an increase of drug selectively exposed to tumor cells and simultaneously a reduction of systemic toxicity. Tumor embolization induces a neoangiogenic reaction with a significant growth of adiacent satellites, so the association with sorafenib has a strong rationale for a combined therapy and is currently under investigation.
CONCLUSIONS: Today TACE is the standard of care for treatment of intermediate hepatocellular carcinoma. To get the best performance it should be tailored according to the individual patient's condition.