Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related mortality and has an increasing incidence worldwide. Locoregional therapies, defined as imaging-guided liver tumour-directed procedures, play a leading part in the management of 50–60% of HCCs. Radiofrequency is the mainstay for local ablation at early stages and transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) remains the standard treatment for intermediate-stage HCC. Other local ablative techniques (microwave ablation, cryoablation and irreversible electroporation) or locoregional therapies (for example, radioembolization and sterotactic body radiation therapy) have been explored, but have not yet modified the standard therapies established decades ago. This understanding is currently changing, and several drugs have been approved for the management of advanced HCC. Molecular therapies dominate the adjuvant trials after curative therapies and combination strategies with TACE for intermediate stages. The rationale for these combinations is sound. Local therapies induce antigen and proinflammatory cytokine release, whereas VEGF inhibitors and tyrosine kinase inhibitors boost immunity and prime tumours for checkpoint inhibition. In this Review, we analyse data from randomized and uncontrolled studies reported with ablative and locoregional techniques and examine the expected effects of combinations with systemic treatments. We also discuss trial design and benchmarks to be used as a reference for future investigations in the dawn of a promising new era for HCC treatment.
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