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Eur J Cancer Prev. 2009 Feb;18(1):13-25. doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0b013e3282f0c090.

Phytochemicals as potential chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agents in hepatocarcinogenesis.

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  • 1Cancer Biomarkers and Prevention Group, Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine, Biocentre, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth commonest malignancy worldwide and the incidence is rising. Surgery, including transplantation resection, is currently the most effective treatment for HCC; however, recurrence rates are high and long-term survival is poor. Identifying novel chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agents and targeting them to patients at high risk of developing HCC or following curative treatment may go some way towards improving prognosis. This review examines current knowledge regarding the chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic potential of phytochemicals in heptocarcinogenesis. Both in-vitro and animal studies demonstrate that several phytochemicals, including curcumin, resveratrol, green tea catechins, oltipraz and silibinin, possess promising chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic properties. Despite this, very few clinical trials have been performed. Problems regarding validation of biomarkers, agent delivery, side effects and patient selection are barriers that need to be overcome to determine the potential of such agents in clinical practice.

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