Selecting the first line treatment in non-metastatic hepatocellular carcinoma - comparing clinical practice guidelines
Primary malignancy of the liver or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is unique in its presentation, disease process, and management. Unlike breast or colon cancer, the staging of HCC depends on performance status and baseline liver function along with pathological characteristics. Apart from traditional options like surgery and systemic therapy, effective management can be achieved in selected cases with liver transplant and locoregional therapy (LRT) like transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), transarterial radioembolization (TARE), and ablation. Liver study societies and cancer groups across the globe proposed guidelines to aid the treating physicians in choosing first-line treatment for liver cancer. It is tough to compare these guidelines as they differ not only in treatment recommendations but also in risk assessment (and staging). The approach to the same patient may be different in the country he or she is managed. In clinical practice, decisions are usually taken on the consensus of multidisciplinary tumor boards and do not necessarily adhere to any guidelines. In the early (and very early) stage HCC, curative options like surgery, transplant, and ablation are recommended. In intermediate stage HCC, LRT (TACE and TARE) is preferred in the first line and systemic therapy for treatment failure or residual disease. Systemic therapy, including the atezolizumab/bevacizumab combination and tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) like sorafenib and lenvatinib, is used for advanced stages. Supportive care is advised for terminal stage HCC.
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