1Thomas J Byrne, Jorge Rakela, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Mayo Clinic in Arizona, Phoenix, AZ 85054, United States.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a common, increasingly prevalent malignancy. For all but the smallest lesions, surgical removal of cancer via resection or liver transplantation (LT) is considered the most feasible pathway to cure. Resection - even with favorable survival - is associated with a fairly high rate of recurrence, perhaps since most HCCs occur in the setting of cirrhosis. LT offers the advantage of removing not only the cancer but the diseased liver from which the cancer has arisen, and LT outperforms resection for survival with selected patients. Since time waiting for LT is time during which HCC can progress, loco-regional therapy (LRT) is widely employed by transplant centers. The purpose of LRT is either to bridge patients to LT by preventing progression and waitlist dropout, or to downstage patients who slightly exceed standard eligibility criteria initially but can fall within it after treatment. Transarterial chemoembolization and radiofrequency ablation have been the most widely utilized LRTs to date, with favorable efficacy and safety as a bridge to LT (and for the former, as a downstaging modality). The list of potentially effective LRTs has expanded in recent years, and includes transarterial chemoembolization with drug-eluting beads, radioembolization and novel forms of extracorporal therapy. Herein we appraise the various LRT modalities for HCC, and their potential roles in specific clinical scenarios in patients awaiting LT.