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Systemic Therapy for Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Latest Advances

Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Faculty of Medicine, Kindai University, 337-2 Ohno-Higashi, Osaka-Sayama, Osaka 589-8511, Japan
Cancers 2018, 10(11), 412;
Received: 2 October 2018 / Revised: 23 October 2018 / Accepted: 25 October 2018 / Published: 30 October 2018
(This article belongs to the Collection Drug Resistance and Novel Therapies in Cancers)
PDF [427 KB, uploaded 30 October 2018]


Systemic therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has changed drastically since the introduction of the molecular targeted agent sorafenib in 2007. Although sorafenib expanded the treatment options for extrahepatic spread (EHS) and vascular invasion, making long-term survival of patients with advanced disease achievable to a certain extent, new molecular-targeted agents are being developed as alternatives to sorafenib due to shortcomings such as its low response rate and high toxicity. Every single one of the many drugs developed during the 10-year period from 2007 to 2016 was a failure. However, during the two-year period from 2017 through 2018, four drugs—regorafenib, lenvatinib, cabozantinib, and ramucirumab—emerged successfully from clinical trials in quick succession and became available for clinical use. The efficacy of combination therapy with transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) plus sorafenib was also first demonstrated in 2018. Recently, immune checkpoint inhibitors have been applied to HCC treatment and many phase III clinical trials are ongoing, not only on monotherapy with nivolumab, pembrolizumab, and tislelizumab, but also on combination therapy with checkpoint inhibitors, programmed death-1 (PD-1) or PD-ligand 1 (PD-L1) antibody plus a molecular targeted agent (bevacizumab) or the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) antibody, tremelimumab. These combination therapies have shown higher response rates than PD-1/PD-L1 monotherapy alone, suggesting a synergistic effect by combination therapy in early phases; therefore, further results are eagerly awaited. View Full-Text
Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma; systemic therapy; molecular targeted therapy; immune checkpoint inhibitor hepatocellular carcinoma; systemic therapy; molecular targeted therapy; immune checkpoint inhibitor

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Kudo, M. Systemic Therapy for Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Latest Advances. Cancers 2018, 10, 412.

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