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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1988 Jun;2(3):187-201.

Review: the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Gastroenterology Research Unit, Royal Infirmary, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, UK.


Surgical resection offers the only realistic hope of cure in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) but is usually not possible, either because the tumour is widespread throughout the liver at diagnosis, or because liver function is adversely affected by concomitant cirrhosis. The results of operation in early asymptomatic disease are, however, encouraging and efforts should be made to screen regularly the cirrhotic population at risk of HCC development. The prognosis for inoperable patients remains gloomy, though exciting new treatment methods exist which require extensive evaluation. An anthracycline given as single agent intravenous therapy is probably the current treatment of choice for inoperable patients, though only 20-30% will show a response. Intra-arterial therapy has not yet been convincingly shown to have any advantages over intravenous therapy. The evaluation of clinical trials in HCC would be made easier if response criteria were standardized and universally adopted, and if trials were properly controlled and of sufficient sample size to test adequately the hypothesis in question. This review deals only with the specific treatment of HCC. HCC prevention, the early diagnosis of HCC, and the relief of symptoms in HCC, though areas of obvious importance, are outside the scope of this review.

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