Published online May 18, 2017. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v9.i14.645
Peer-review started: August 29, 2016
First decision: November 21, 2016
Revised: April 3, 2017
Accepted: April 18, 2017
Article in press: April 20, 2017
Published online: May 18, 2017
Primary and metastatic liver cancer is an increasingly common and difficult to control disease entity. Radiation offers a non-invasive treatment alternative for these patients who often have few options and a poor prognosis. However, the anatomy and aggressiveness of liver cancer poses significant challenges such as accurate localization at simulation and treatment, management of motion and appropriate selection of dose regimen. This article aims to review the options available and provide information for the practical implementation and/or improvement of liver cancer radiation programs within the context of stereotactic body radiotherapy and image-guided radiotherapy guidelines. Specific patient inclusion and exclusion criteria are presented given the significant toxicity found in certain sub-populations treated with radiation. Indeed, certain sub-populations, such as those with tumor thrombosis or those with larger lesions treated with transarterial chemoembolization, have been shown to have significant improvements in outcome with the addition of radiation and merit special consideration. Implementing a liver radiation program requires three primary challenges to be addressed: (1) immobilization and motion management; (2) localization; and (3) dose regimen and constraint selection. Strategies to deal with motion include simple internal target volume (ITV) expansions, non-gated ITV reduction strategies, breath hold methods, and surrogate marker methods to enable gating or tracking. Localization of the tumor and organs-at-risk are addressed using contrast infusion techniques to take advantage of different normal liver and cancer vascular anatomy, imaging modalities, and margin management. Finally, a dose response has been demonstrated and dose regimens appear to be converging. A more uniform approach to treatment in terms of technique, dose selection and patient selection will allow us to study liver radiation in larger and, hopefully, multicenter randomized studies.
Core tip: Primary and metastatic liver cancer patients are a growing population seen in cancer centers. This population often has few options and a poor prognosis. Radiation offers a safe non-invasive treatment option, but those implementing a liver radiotherapy program must address specific challenges not always seen in other disease sites. A growing and large number of papers have investigated a wide range of strategies. Our objective is to consolidate this literature to provide a concise review of options to allow a pragmatic selection of management strategies.