1 BCLC group, Liver Unit, Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, IDIBAPS, CIBERehd, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 BCLC group, Liver Unit, Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, IDIBAPS, CIBERehd, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
Systemic treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has been boosted by the incorporation of new agents after many negative phase III trials in the decade since the approval of sorafenib. Sorafenib introduced the concept that targeting specific hallmarks of hepatocarcinogenesis could modify the dismal prognosis of this disease, with the drug remaining a cornerstone in the upfront therapy for advanced HCC. The design of clinical trials in this malignancy is complicated by important obstacles related to patient selection, prognostic assessment and the need for endpoints that correlate with improvement in survival outcomes. In addition, the currently used criteria to determine treatment response or progression might prevent physicians from making appropriate clinical judgements and interpreting evidence arising from trials. In this Review, we discuss the advances in systemic therapy for HCC and critically review trial designs in HCC. Although novel therapies, such as new targeted agents and immunotherapies, are being rapidly incorporated, it is paramount to design future clinical trials based on the lessons learned from past failures and successes.