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World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Mar 21;14(11):1652-6.

Natural history of hepatitis-related hepatocellular carcinoma.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, the University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an important cause of cancer death in the world. It has great regional differences in the pathology and epidemiology. The variation is greatly influenced by the aetiologies of the disease. Hepatitis B and C infection are the most important risk factors. HCC incidence rates are higher but in decreasing trend in developing countries. However, the figures in the developed countries are contrary. Successful hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccination programs, better food hygiene, increased global hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevalence and population migration are the possible explanations. A number of clinical and pathogenic differences exist between HBV- and HCV-related HCC. HBV infection leads to the development of HCC through direct and indirect pathways as it has the ability to integrate into the host genome affecting cellular signaling and growth control. HCV causes HCC mainly through indirect pathways: chronic inflammation, cell deaths and proliferation. As a result, HCC is almost exclusively found in cirrhotic HCV patients while HCC is sometimes found in HBV patients without significant liver cirrhosis. Due to the different severities of liver cirrhosis and HCC extent, therapeutic strategies from resection, liver transplantation to symptoms palliation are available. Poorly differentiated histology, lack of fibrous capsule, large tumour size, early vascular invasion and elevated serum levels of alpha fetoprotein (AFP) are the features for more aggressive disease. Combined with markers of liver reserve and performance status, accurate scoring systems and models have been developed to predict patients' survival and match best treatment option.

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