Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common causes of cancer related mortality worldwide. The incidence of HCC has been increasing annually. Viral infection, alcohol usage, and other causes of cirrhosis have been identified as major risk factors for HCC development. The underlying pathogenesis has not been as well defined. There have been multiple hypotheses to the specific mechanisms of hepatocarcinogenesis and they share the common theme of chronic inflammation, increase oxidative stress, and genomic alteration. Therapeutic options of HCC have been primarily local and/or regional including transplantation, resection, and radial frequency ablation, chemoembolization or radio-embolization. For unresectable or metastatic disease, the options are limited. Conventional chemotherapeutic options have been noted to have limited benefit. Sorafenib has been the one and only systemic therapy which has demonstrated modest overall survival benefit. This has led to more extensive research with focus on targeted therapy. Numerous pre-clinical and early phase clinical studies have been noted but failed to show efficacy in later phase clinical trials. In an effort to identify new potential therapeutic options, new understanding of underlying pathways to hepatocarcinogenesis should be one of the main focuses. This leads to development of more molecularly targeted agents to specific pathways, and immunotherapy. This article provides a review of major studies of molecular targeted agents which attempts to target these specific pathways in HCC.
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