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Adult Primary Liver Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Recurrent Adult Primary Liver Cancer

Note: Some citations in the text of this section are followed by a level of evidence. The PDQ editorial boards use a formal ranking system to help the reader judge the strength of evidence linked to the reported results of a therapeutic strategy. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Levels of Evidence for more information.)

The prognosis for any treated primary liver cancer patient with progressing, recurring, or relapsing disease is poor. The question and selection of further treatment depends on many factors, including prior treatment, site of recurrence, presence of cirrhosis, and hepatic function as well as individual patient considerations. Re-resection should be considered when feasible, but most patients experience recurrence, typically in the liver.[1] When re-resection is not possible, treatment options for patients with recurrent hepatocellular cancer may include the use of transarterial oily chemoembolization (TOCE), percutaneous ethanol injection therapy (PEIT), chemotherapy, or liver transplantation.[2] At a single institution in Hong Kong, 244 consecutive patients treated with curative resection were followed for intrahepatic recurrence. Of the 244 patients followed, 139 patients did not develop intrahepatic recurrence and had 1-, 3-, and 5-year survival rates of 87%, 79%, and 74%, respectively. Of the 105 patients who developed subsequent intrahepatic recurrences, 11 patients were treated with re-resection and had 1-, 3-, and 5-year survival rates of 81%, 70%, and 69%, respectively; 71 patients were treated with TOCE and had 1-, 3-, and 5-year survival rates of 72%, 38%, and 20%, respectively; 6 patients were treated with PEIT and had 1-, 3-, 5-year survival rates of 67%, 22%, and 0%, respectively; the remaining 17 patients had either systemic chemotherapy or conservative treatment, and had no survivors at 3 years.[2][Level of evidence: 3iiA] Clinical trials are appropriate and should be considered whenever possible.

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Current Clinical Trials

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with recurrent adult primary liver cancer. The list of clinical trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.


  1. Shimada M, Takenaka K, Taguchi K, et al.: Prognostic factors after repeat hepatectomy for recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma. Ann Surg 227 (1): 80-5, 1998.
  2. Poon RT, Fan ST, Lo CM, et al.: Intrahepatic recurrence after curative resection of hepatocellular carcinoma: long-term results of treatment and prognostic factors. Ann Surg 229 (2): 216-22, 1999.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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