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Hepatocellular carcinoma: a review

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      Abstract

      Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common primary liver malignancy and is a leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. In the United States, HCC is the ninth leading cause of cancer deaths. Despite advances in prevention techniques, screening, and new technologies in both diagnosis and treatment, incidence and mortality continue to rise. Cirrhosis remains the most important risk factor for the development of HCC regardless of etiology. Hepatitis B and C are independent risk factors for the development of cirrhosis. Alcohol consumption remains an important additional risk factor in the United States as alcohol abuse is five times higher than hepatitis C. Diagnosis is confirmed without pathologic confirmation. Screening includes both radiologic tests, such as ultrasound, computerized tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging, and serological markers such as α-fetoprotein at 6-month intervals. Multiple treatment modalities exist; however, only orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) or surgical resection is curative. OLT is available for patients who meet or are downstaged into the Milan or University of San Francisco criteria. Additional treatment modalities include transarterial chemoembolization, radiofrequency ablation, microwave ablation, percutaneous ethanol injection, cryoablation, radiation therapy, systemic chemotherapy, and molecularly targeted therapies. Selection of a treatment modality is based on tumor size, location, extrahepatic spread, and underlying liver function. HCC is an aggressive cancer that occurs in the setting of cirrhosis and commonly presents in advanced stages. HCC can be prevented if there are appropriate measures taken, including hepatitis B virus vaccination, universal screening of blood products, use of safe injection practices, treatment and education of alcoholics and intravenous drug users, and initiation of antiviral therapy. Continued improvement in both surgical and nonsurgical approaches has demonstrated significant benefits in overall survival. While OLT remains the only curative surgical procedure, the shortage of available organs precludes this therapy for many patients with HCC.

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      Most cited references 142

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      Estimates of worldwide burden of cancer in 2008: GLOBOCAN 2008.

      Estimates of the worldwide incidence and mortality from 27 cancers in 2008 have been prepared for 182 countries as part of the GLOBOCAN series published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. In this article, we present the results for 20 world regions, summarizing the global patterns for the eight most common cancers. Overall, an estimated 12.7 million new cancer cases and 7.6 million cancer deaths occur in 2008, with 56% of new cancer cases and 63% of the cancer deaths occurring in the less developed regions of the world. The most commonly diagnosed cancers worldwide are lung (1.61 million, 12.7% of the total), breast (1.38 million, 10.9%) and colorectal cancers (1.23 million, 9.7%). The most common causes of cancer death are lung cancer (1.38 million, 18.2% of the total), stomach cancer (738,000 deaths, 9.7%) and liver cancer (696,000 deaths, 9.2%). Cancer is neither rare anywhere in the world, nor mainly confined to high-resource countries. Striking differences in the patterns of cancer from region to region are observed. Copyright © 2010 UICC.
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        Sorafenib in advanced hepatocellular carcinoma.

        No effective systemic therapy exists for patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma. A preliminary study suggested that sorafenib, an oral multikinase inhibitor of the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, the platelet-derived growth factor receptor, and Raf may be effective in hepatocellular carcinoma. In this multicenter, phase 3, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we randomly assigned 602 patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma who had not received previous systemic treatment to receive either sorafenib (at a dose of 400 mg twice daily) or placebo. Primary outcomes were overall survival and the time to symptomatic progression. Secondary outcomes included the time to radiologic progression and safety. At the second planned interim analysis, 321 deaths had occurred, and the study was stopped. Median overall survival was 10.7 months in the sorafenib group and 7.9 months in the placebo group (hazard ratio in the sorafenib group, 0.69; 95% confidence interval, 0.55 to 0.87; P<0.001). There was no significant difference between the two groups in the median time to symptomatic progression (4.1 months vs. 4.9 months, respectively, P=0.77). The median time to radiologic progression was 5.5 months in the sorafenib group and 2.8 months in the placebo group (P<0.001). Seven patients in the sorafenib group (2%) and two patients in the placebo group (1%) had a partial response; no patients had a complete response. Diarrhea, weight loss, hand-foot skin reaction, and hypophosphatemia were more frequent in the sorafenib group. In patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma, median survival and the time to radiologic progression were nearly 3 months longer for patients treated with sorafenib than for those given placebo. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00105443.) 2008 Massachusetts Medical Society
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          Management of hepatocellular carcinoma: An update

          Since the publication of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) practice guidelines on the management of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in 2005, new information has emerged that requires that the guidelines be updated. The full version of the new guidelines is available on the AASLD Web site at http://www.aasld.org/practiceguidelines/Documents/Bookmarked%20Practice%20Guidelines/HCCUpdate2010.pdf. Here, we briefly describe only new or changed recommendations. Surveillance and Diagnosis In the previous guideline, groups were specified for which surveillance was likely to be cost-effective because the hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) incidence was high enough. New data on defining HCC risk have emerged for hepatitis B virus,1,2 hepatitis C virus,3 and autoimmune hepatitis.4 Surveillance is deemed cost-effective if the expected HCC risk exceeds 1.5% per year in patients with hepatitis C and 0.2% per year in patients with hepatitis B. Analysis of recent studies show that alpha-fetoprotein determination lacks adequate sensitivity and specificity for effective surveillance (and for diagnosis).5,6 Thus, surveillance has to be based on ultrasound examination. The recommended screening interval is 6 months. Diagnosis of HCC should be based on imaging techniques and/or biopsy.The 2005 diagnostic algorithm has been validated and the diagnostic accuracy of a single dynamic technique showing intense arterial uptake followed by “washout” of contrast in the venous-delayed phases has been demonstrated.7-9 Contrast-enhanced US may offer false positive HCC diagnosis in patients with cholangiocarcinoma and thus, has been dropped from the diagnostic techniques. The diagnostic algorithm is shown in Fig. 1. The application of dynamic imaging criteria should be applied only to patients with cirrhosis of any etiology and to patients with chronic hepatitis B who may not have fully developed cirrhosis or have regressed cirrhosis. Interpretation of biopsies and distinction between high-grade dysplatic nodules and HCC is challenging. Expert pathology diagnosis is reinforced by staining for glypican 3, heat shock protein 70, and glutamine synthetase, because positivity for two of these three stains confirms HCC.10 Fig. 1 Diagnostic algorithm for suspected HCC. CT, computed tomography; MDCT, multidetector CT; MRI, magnetic resonance imaging; US, ultrasound. Staging and Treatment of HCC The BCLC staging system (Fig. 2)11 has come to be widely accepted in clinical practice and is also being used for many clinical trials of new drugs to treat HCC. Therefore, it has become the de facto staging system that is used. Fig. 2 The BCLC staging system for HCC. M, metastasis classification; N, node classification; PS, performance status; RFA, radiofrequency ablation; TACE, transarterial chemoembolization. The recommendations for liver transplantation have not changed. No new data have emerged that can be used to define a new limit for expanding the patient selection criteria. The usefulness of portal pressure measurement to predict the outcome of patients and define optimal candidates for resection has been validated in Japan.12 Thus, resection should remain the first option for patients who have the optimal profile, as defined by the BCLC staging system. Although resection can be performed in some of these patients with advanced liver disease, the mortality is higher and they might be better served by liver transplantation or ablation. A cohort study of radiofrequency ablation demonstrated that complete ablation of lesions smaller than 2 cm is possible in more than 90% of cases, with a local recurrence rate of less than 1%.13 These data should be confirmed by other groups before positioning ablation as the first-line approach for very early HCC. The recommendations regarding patient selection and method of administration of chemoembolization are unchanged. Radioembolization, i.e., the intra-arterial injection of yttrium-90 bound to glass beads or to resin, has been shown to induce tumor necrosis, but there are no data comparing its efficacy to transarterial chemoembolization or to sorafenib treatment for those with portal vein invasion. However, for patients who have either failed transarterial chemoembolization or who present with more advanced HCC, new data indicates the efficacy of sorafenib (a multikinase inhibitor with activity against Raf-1, B-Raf, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2, platelet-derived growth factor receptor, c-Kit receptors, among other kinases) in prolonging life.14,15 Sorafenib induces a clinically relevant improvement in time to progression and in survival The magnitude of the improvement in survival compares with other established molecular targeted therapies for other advanced cancers, and the associated toxicity is easily managed without treatment-related mortality. The most frequent adverse events were diarrhea (sorafenib versus placebo: 11% versus 2%) and hand–foot skin reaction (sorafenib versus placebo: 8% versus <1%), fatigue, and weight loss. Sorafenib is now considered first-line treatment in patients with HCC who can no longer be treated with potentially more effective therapies. In summary, in the past decade HCC has gone from being an almost universal death sentence to a cancer that can be prevented, detected at an early stage, and effectively treated. Physicians caring for patients at risk need to provide high-quality screening, proper management of screen-detected lesions, and provision of therapy that is most appropriate for the stage of disease.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ]Sherrie and Alan Conover Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation
            [2 ]Division of Transplantation, Department of Surgery
            [3 ]Department of Gastroenterology and Transplant Hepatology
            [4 ]Department of Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX, USA
            Author notes
            Correspondence: Howard P Monsour Jr, Department of Gastroenterology and Transplant Hepatology, Houston Methodist Hospital, 6550 Fannin Street, Smith Tower 1001, Houston, TX 77030, USA, Email HPmonsour@ 123456houstonmethodist.org
            Journal
            J Hepatocell Carcinoma
            J Hepatocell Carcinoma
            Journal of Hepatocellular Carcinoma
            Journal of Hepatocellular Carcinoma
            Dove Medical Press
            2253-5969
            2016
            05 October 2016
            : 3
            : 41-53
            5063561
            10.2147/JHC.S61146
            jhc-3-041
            © 2016 Balogh et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

            The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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