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Gastroenterology. 2004 Nov;127(5 Suppl 1):S179-88.

Chemoembolization for hepatocellular carcinoma.

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BCLC Group, Liver Unit, IDIBAPS, Hospital Clinic, University of Barcelona, Villarroel 170, 08036 Barcelona, Spain.


Curative therapies for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), such as resection, liver transplantation, and percutaneous ablation, can be applied in selected patients with early tumors; this includes approximately 30%-40% of all cases. More advanced stages require local or systemic therapies. Data on the efficacy of these treatments are derived from small randomized controlled trials (RCT) and meta-analysis. Chemoembolization, a technique combining intra-arterial chemotherapy and selected ischemia, has produced modest survival advantages in 2 RCTs and a meta-analysis, and is currently the mainstay of treatment for these stages. The ideal candidates for this option are patients with well-preserved liver function (Child-Pugh class A) and multinodular asymptomatic tumors without vascular invasion, who constitute less than 15% of the HCC population. In these cases, the benefits derived by achieving objective responses (30%-50% of cases) are not offset by the deterioration of the liver function. Treatment-related mortality is less than 4%. No survival advantages have yet been shown with embolization or intra-arterial chemotherapy alone. Further RCTs are needed to assess the best chemotherapeutic agent and the ideal retreatment schedule. The analysis of efficacy in these trials should be adjusted for prognostic factors, such as the presence of symptoms, Child-Pugh class, and segmental vascular invasion.

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