Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the second most common cause of cancer death worldwide, with a majority of HCC patients not suitable for curative therapies. Approximately 70% of initially diagnosed patients cannot undergo surgical resection or transplantation due to locally advanced disease, poor liver function/underlying cirrhosis, or additional comorbidities. Local therapeutic options for patients with unresectable HCC, who are not suitable for thermal ablation, include transarterial embolization (bland, chemoembolization, radioembolization) and/or external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). Regarding EBRT specifically, technological advancements provide a means for safe and effective radiotherapy delivery in a wide spectrum of HCC patients. In multiple prospective studies, EBRT delivery in a variety of different fractionation schemes or in combination with transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) demonstrate improved outcomes, particularly with combination therapy. The Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer classification provides a framework for treatment selection; however, given the growing complexity of treatment strategies, this classification system tends to simplify decision-making. In this review, we discuss the current literature regarding unresectable HCC and propose a modified treatment algorithm that emphasizes the role of radiation therapy for Child-Pugh score A or B patients with ≤3 nodules measuring >3 cm, multinodular disease or portal venous thrombosis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cancer Research
- Hepatocellular carcinoma
- Radiation therapy
- Systemic therapy
- Transarterial embolization
- Transcatheter arterial chemoembolization