Recurrences of hepatocellular carcinoma following complete remission by transarterial chemoembolization or radiofrequency therapy: Focused on the recurrence patterns


  • Conflict of interest: None of the authors have any financial disclosure or conflict of interest to declare in connection with this study.
  • A part of this work was presented at the 62nd annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of the Liver Diseases (AASLD) in 2011 (The Liver Meeting 2011).



In this study, we analyzed the rates and patterns of recurrences in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients who had achieved complete remission (CR) by transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) or radiofrequency ablation (RFA), and also examined the differences of recurrence patterns between TACE-treated and RFA-treated groups.


We followed 309 consecutive HCC patients who achieved CR following TACE (n = 220) or RFA (n = 89) for a median of 68 months. Recurrence patterns were classified as local recurrence and secondary tumor according to location of recurrence (≤2 cm and >2 cm from primary tumor).


Recurred HCC had been found in 231 out of 309 patients (75%) with CR by TACE or RFA; 112 local recurrences (48%), 100 secondary tumor (43%) and 19 both (9%). The cumulative recurrence rates at 1, 3 and 5 years were 22%, 64% and 79%, respectively. The overall recurrences at 1, 3 and 5 years following CR in the TACE-treated group was not different from those in the RFA-treated group (21%, 68% and 81% vs 26%, 56% and 84%, respectively; P = NS) However, the cumulative occurrence rates of local recurrence rates at 1, 3 and 5 years were significantly higher in the TACE-treated group compared to the RFA-treated group (15%, 53% and 65% vs 15%, 27% and 34%, respectively; P = 0.001).


Recurrence of HCC is very common, even following CR by TACE or RFA. Especially, local recurrences are very frequent in cases who achieved CR by TACE, which suggests that additional ablation therapy may be beneficial to prevent recurrences following CR by TACE.