Hepatocellular Carcinoma in β-Thalassemia Patients: Review of the Literature with Molecular Insight into Liver Carcinogenesis
Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Beirut 11-0236, Lebanon
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2018, 19(12), 4070; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms19124070
Received: 25 November 2018 / Revised: 8 December 2018 / Accepted: 11 December 2018 / Published: 17 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Molecular Pathology, Diagnostics, and Therapeutics)
With the continuing progress in managing patients with thalassemia, especially in the setting of iron overload and iron chelation, the life span of these patients is increasing, while concomitantly increasing incidences of many diseases that were less likely to show when survival was rather limited. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a major life-threatening cancer that is becoming more frequently identified in this population of patients. The two established risk factors for the development of HCC in thalassemia include iron overload and viral hepatitis with or without cirrhosis. Increased iron burden is becoming a major HCC risk factor in this patient population, especially in those in the older age group. As such, screening thalassemia patients using liver iron concentration (LIC) measurement by means of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and liver ultrasound is strongly recommended for the early detection of iron overload and for implementation of early iron chelation in an attempt to prevent organ-damaging iron overload and possibly HCC. There remain lacking data on HCC treatment outcomes in patients who have thalassemia. However, a personalized approach tailored to each patient’s comorbidities is essential to treatment success. Multicenter studies investigating the long-term outcomes of currently available therapeutic options in the thalassemia realm, in addition to novel HCC therapeutic targets, are needed to further improve the prognosis of these patients.