PURPOSE: In this study, it was investigated whether dose response relation existed or not in local radiotherapy for primary hepatocellular carcinoma. MATERIALS AND METHODS: From January 1992 to March 2000, 158 patients were included in present study. Exclusion criteria included the presence of extrahepatic metastasis, liver cirrhosis of Child's class C, tumors occupying more than two thirds of the entire liver, and performance status on the ECOG scale of more than 3. Radiotherapy was given to the field including tumor with generous margin using 6, 10-MV X-ray. Mean tumor dose was 48.2+/-7.9 Gy in daily 1.8 Gy fractions. Tumor response was based on diagnostic radiologic examinations such as CT scan, MR imaging, hepatic artery angiography at 4~8 weeks following completion of treatment. Statistical analysis was done to investigate the existence of dose response relationship of local radiotherapy when it was applied to the treatment of primary hepatocellular carcinoma. RESULTS: An objective response was observed in 106 of 158 patients, giving a response rate of 67.1%. Statistical analysis revealed that total dose was the most significant factor in relation to tumor response when local radiotherapy was applied to the treatment of primary hepatocellular carcinoma. Only 29.2% showed objective response in patients treated with dose less than 40 Gy, while 68.6% and 77.1% showed major response in patients with 40~50 Gy and more than 50 Gy, respectively. Child-Pugh classification was significant factor in the development of ascites, overt radiation induced liver disease and gastroenteritis. Radiation dose was an important factor for development of radiation induced gastroduodenal ulcer. CONCLUSION: Present study showed the existence of dose response relationship in local radiotherapy for primary hepatocellular carcinoma. Only radiotherapy dose was a significant factor to predict the objective response. Further study is required to predict the maximal tolerance dose in consideration of liver function and non-irradiated liver volume.