New advances in the diagnosis and management of hepatocellular carcinoma

Ju Dong Yang, Julie K Heimbach
BMJ: British Medical Journal 2020 October 26, 371: m3544
Hepatocellular carcinoma is one of the leading causes of cancer related death in the world. Biannual surveillance for the disease in patients with cirrhosis and in high risk carriers of hepatitis B virus allows early stage cancer detection and treatment with good long term outcomes. Liver ultrasonography and serum α fetoprotein are the most commonly used surveillance tests. If suspicious results are found on the surveillance test, multiphasic computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging should be undertaken to confirm the diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma. If radiologic tests show inconclusive results, liver biopsy or repeat imaging could be considered for confirmation of hepatocellular carcinoma. Management of the disease is complex. Patients should be evaluated by a multidisciplinary team, and the selection of treatment should consider factors such as tumor burden, severity of liver dysfunction, medical comorbidities, local expertise, and preference of patients. Early stage hepatocellular carcinoma is best managed by curative treatment, which includes resection, ablation, or transplantation. Patients with intermediate stage disease often receive locoregional treatment. Systemic treatment is reserved for patients with advanced disease. Several positive, phase III, randomized controlled trials have expanded the systemic treatment options for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma with promising long term outcomes, especially trials using combination treatments, which could also have eventual implications for the treatment of earlier stage disease.

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