Published online Apr 7, 2015. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i13.3826
Peer-review started: August 23, 2014
First decision: October 29, 2014
Revised: December 11, 2014
Accepted: February 12, 2015
Article in press: February 13, 2015
Published online: April 7, 2015
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the leading causes of cancer death, especially in Eastern areas. With advancements in diagnosis and treatment modalities for HCC, the survival and prognosis of HCC patients are improving. However, treatment patterns are not uniform between areas despite efforts to promote a common protocol. Although many hepatologists in Asian countries may adopt the principles of the Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer staging system, they are also independently making an effort to expand the indications of each treatment and to combine therapies for better outcomes. Several expanded criteria for liver transplantation in HCC have been developed in Asian countries. Living donor liver transplantation is much more commonly performed in these countries than deceased donor liver transplantation, and it may be preceded by other treatments such as the down-staging of tumors. Local ablation therapies are often combined with transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) and the outcome is comparable to that of surgical resection. The indications of TACE are expanding, and there are new types of transarterial therapies. Although data on drug-eluting beads, TACE, and radioembolization in Asian countries are still relatively sparse compared with Western countries, these methods are gradually gaining popularity because of better tolerability and the possibility of improved response rates. Hepatic arterial infusion chemotherapy and radiotherapy are not included in Western guidelines, but are currently being used actively in several Asian countries. For more advanced HCCs, appropriate combinations of TACE, radiotherapy, and sorafenib can be considered, and emerging data indicate improved outcomes of combination therapies compared with single therapies. To include these paradigm shifts into newer treatment guidelines, more studies may be needed, but they are certainly in progress.
Core tip: This article describes the current status of the management of hepatocellular carcinoma, focusing on the changing trends of treatment modalities in Eastern countries. Newly adopted therapies as well as emerging combination strategies are discussed based on recent data.