The nearly ubiquitous association of hepatocellular cancer (HCC) with underlying liver dysfunction portends a dismal prognosis. At the time of presentation with HCC, many patients have advanced cirrhosis that precludes effective therapy. Important prognostic factors include characteristics of the tumor (size, location, involvement of major blood vessels) and the functional state of the liver (quantified by synthetic function and portal hypertension). Localized tumors in a noncirrhotic liver may be treated successfully with surgical resection. In the setting of mild to moderate cirrhosis, localized therapy such as radiofrequency ablation, percutaneous ethanol ablation, chemoembolization, or Yttrium 90 microsphere infusion may be options, depending on the liver reserve and resources available. In the setting of advanced cirrhosis, treatment of the tumor may exacerbate liver decompensation, resulting in a shortened survival. In all of these instances, regardless of the therapy pursued, the underlying field defect with malignant potential remains in place. Liver transplantation has been employed to resolve both life-threatening problems, but it is fraught with many barriers. Appropriate patient selection and the use of adjuvant therapies are being pursued to improve the outcome of transplantation for HCC. Patients may have limited therapy options if they have poor performance status, are not surgical candidates, have a tumor that extends into the main portal vein, or have metastases to distant lymph nodes or organs. Chemotherapy is of marginal efficacy. Emerging therapies exploiting molecular targets are being explored with some promise.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)