Systemic chemotherapy is one of the most important treatment modalities for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Before the introduction of sorafenib, cytotoxic agents, hormonal therapies, or many combinations of these were the mainly used modalities for systemic chemotherapy of advanced HCC. However, such regimens were of only limited value in clinical practice, because some randomized controlled studies comparing promising regimens with no treatment or doxorubicin alone failed to show any overall survival advantage. In two pivotal phase III placebo-controlled studies, the SHARP trial and the Asia-Pacific trial, sorafenib was demonstrated to significantly delay the time to progression and the overall survival time in patients with advanced HCC. Therefore, sorafenib therapy has come to be acknowledged as a standard therapy for advanced HCC worldwide. After the introduction of sorafenib, a number of phase III trials of various molecular-targeted agents vs.
sorafenib as first-line chemotherapy and of various molecular-targeted agents vs.
placebo as second-line chemotherapy have been conducted to determine if any of these agents could offer a survival benefit, however, none of the agents examined so far has been demonstrated to provide any survival benefit over sorafenib or placebo. Recently, favorable treatment efficacies have been reported in some clinical trials of molecular-targeted agents in the biomarker-enriched population. Development of individualized cancer treatments using molecular-targeted agents based on the results of genome-sequencing is aggressively ongoing. Furthermore, immune-oncologic agents, such as anti-CTLA-4 antibody and anti-PD-1/PD-L1 antibody, have been reported to provide promising outcomes. Thus, various novel systemic chemotherapeutic agents are currently under development, and further improvements in the treatment outcomes are expected.
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