J Liver Cancer.  2021 Sep;21(2):113-123. 10.17998/jlc.2021.05.26.

Differences in radiotherapy application according to regional disease characteristics of hepatocellular carcinoma

  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, Korea University Ansan Hospital, Ansan, Korea
  • 2Department of Radiation Oncology, Korea University Medical College, Seoul, Korea


There are differences in opinion regarding the application of external beam radiotherapy in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma. Some major guidelines state that external beam radiotherapy is yet to attain a sufficient level of evidence. However, caution should be exercised when attempting to understand the clinical need for external beam radiotherapy solely based on the level of evidence. Previously, external beam radiotherapy had low applicability in the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma before computed tomography-based planning was popularized. Modern external beam radiotherapy can selectively target tumor cells while sparing normal liver tissues. Recent technologies such as stereotactic body radiotherapy have enabled more precise treatment. The characteristics of hepatocellular carcinoma differ significantly according to the regional etiology. The main cause of hepatocellular carcinoma is the hepatitis B virus. It is commonly diagnosed as a locally advanced tumor but with relatively preserved hepatic function. The majority of these hepatocellular carcinoma cases are found in the East Asian population. Hepatocellular carcinoma caused by hepatitis C virus or other benign hepatitis tends to be diagnosed as a less locally aggressive tumor but with deteriorated liver function. The Western world and Japan tend to have patients with such causes. External beam radiotherapy has been more commonly performed for the former, although the use of external beam radiotherapy in the latter might have more concerns with regard to hepatic toxicity. This review discusses the above subjects along with perspectives regarding external beam radiotherapy in recent guidelines.


Hepatocellular carcinoma; External beam radiation therapy; Radiotherapy; Liver neoplasm; Guidelines
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