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Keywords:

  • hepatectomy;
  • hepatocellular carcinoma;
  • liver resection;
  • transarterial chemoembolization

Abstract

Resection of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) offers the only hope for cure. However, in patients undergoing resection, recurrences, in particular, intrahepatic recurrence are common. The effectiveness of transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) as a neoadjuvant therapy for unresectable HCC was exploited by numerous liver units and employed preoperatively in the setting of resectable HCC with an aim to prevent recurrence and prolong survival. A systematic literature search of databases (Medline and PubMed) to identify published studies of TACE administered preoperatively as a neoadjuvant treatment for resectable HCC was undertaken. A systematic review by tabulation of the results was performed with disease-free survival (DFS) as the primary endpoint. Overall survival (OS), rate of pathological response, impact on surgical morbidity and mortality and pattern of recurrences were secondary endpoints of this review. Eighteen studies; three randomized trials and 15 observational studies were evaluated. This comprised of 3927 patients, of which, 1293 underwent neoadjuvant TACE. The median DFS in the TACE and non-TACE group ranged from 10 to 46 and 8 to 52 months, respectively, with 67% of studies reporting similar DFS between groups despite higher extent of tumour necrosis from the resected specimens indicating a higher rate of pathological response (partial TACE 27–72% vs. non-TACE 23–52%; complete TACE 0–28% vs. non-TACE zero), with no difference in surgical morbidity and mortality outcome. No conclusion could be drawn with respect to OS. Both randomized and non-randomized trials suggest the use of TACE preoperatively as a neoadjuvant treatment in resectable HCC is a safe and efficacious procedure with high rates of pathological responses. However, it does not appear to improve DFS.