Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, is difficult to treat and highly lethal. Since HCC is predominantly diagnosed in patients with cirrhosis, treatment planning must consider both the severity of liver disease and tumor burden. To minimize the impact to the patient while treating the tumor, techniques have been developed to target HCC. Anatomical targeting by surgical resection or locoregional therapies is generally reserved for patients with preserved liver function and minimal to moderate tumor burden. Patients with decompensated cirrhosis and small tumors are optimal candidates for liver transplantation, which offers the best chance of long-term survival. Yet, only 20%–30% of patients have disease amenable to anatomical targeting. For the majority of patients with advanced HCC, chemotherapy is used to target the tumor biology. Despite these treatment options, the five-year survival of patients in the United States with HCC is only 16%. In this review we provide a comprehensive overview of current approaches to target HCC. We also discuss emerging diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers, novel therapeutic targets identified by recent genomic profiling studies, and potential applications of immunotherapy in the treatment of HCC.
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