Trends in treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma in Japan

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Yoshihiro Sakamoto Ryota Matsuki Takaaki Arai Masaharu Kogure Yutaka Suzuki


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in Japan, and it has gradually decreased in the last quarter century. The reason for the decrease in HCC patients is the decrease of patients with hepatitis C virus due to avoiding unnecessary blood transfusions and development of direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs), which have been available since 2014, along with interferon and oral antiviral agents in Japan. On the other hand, the numbers of HCC patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are increasing. In the treatment strategy for HCC in the Japanese guideline, the algorithm involves five clinicopathological factors: liver function (assessed using the Child-Pugh classification, liver damage score, and the ICG-R15 value), presence of extrahepatic metastases, presence of vascular invasion, number of tumors (within 3 or more than 4), and tumor size (within 3 cm or over 3 cm). Surgical resection is sometimes indicated for extrahepatic metastases in patients with well-controlled intrahepatic HCC, and for advanced HCC with vascular invasion, hepatectomy is also recommended as one of the treatment options according to the results of a nationwide survey in Japan. In the latest Japanese guideline, the recommended chemotherapy for advanced HCC is lenvatinib or sorafenib as first-line and regorafenib as second-line therapy. Currently, based on the results of various clinical trials for advanced HCC, the therapeutic options for advanced HCC have increased, such as combination therapy of atezolizumab and bevacizumab, ramucirumab, and cabozantinib. Reports of conversion surgery after chemotherapy have also increased, and the development of multidisciplinary treatment for advanced HCC will be of further interest in the future.

Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma, Japanese guideline, multidisciplinary treatment

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How to Cite
SAKAMOTO, Yoshihiro et al. Trends in treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma in Japan. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 9, n. 7, july 2021. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 29 may 2023. doi:
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