Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC)

What is HCC?

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of liver cancer. The incidence of HCC has more than doubled in the United States, most likely due to the ongoing hepatitis C epidemic and a continuing increase in the prevalence of fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. In developing countries, the HCC incidence is even higher as viral hepatitis, particularly hepatitis B, remains very prevalent.

Who is at risk for developing HCC?

HCC most often occurs in the setting of liver cirrhosis, which is the strongest risk factor. Many conditions can cause liver cirrhosis, notably chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection, nonalcoholic or alcoholic steatohepatitis, hemochromatosis, and alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency. If you have cirrhosis, your doctor will likely recommend frequent screening for HCC.

How do I know if I have HCC?

In most patients, HCC is discovered during routine screening. HCC is often asymptomatic unless is has grown very large or occurs in a more sensitive location in the liver. In any case, symptoms of HCC are difficult to differentiate from those of liver cirrhosis, which most HCC patients already have. In some cases, these symptoms of cirrhosis can worsen in the setting of HCC and alert doctors that something else may be wrong.

What are the treatment options for HCC?

Unlike many cancers, systemic chemotherapy is not very effective in HCC. For patients that qualify, liver transplant remains the best option for patients with HCC. Unfortunately, many patients may not qualify for transplant due to tumor size, metastasis, or other complications related to their liver cirrhosis.

Aside from transplant, there are other treatment options available that may shrink the tumor, decrease symptoms, and extend life. For small tumors, surgical resection (cutting the tumor out) could be an option. Transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) is performed by an interventional radiologist who feeds a tube through your blood vessels and delivers high-dose chemotherapy directly into the tumor. Radiation treatment may be available, too. The treatments options available will depend largely on the state of your liver function and of your overall health.

Are there any HCC clinical trials currently recruiting at UC Davis?

Please click here to see our active clinical trials for HCC.

Do I qualify for a HCC clinical trial?

Each clinical trial we offer is a little bit different and the eligibility criteria for each study can vary considerably. You can view eligibility criteria for each study on the clinicaltrials.gov website link above, or contact our Clinical Trials Unit to see if we have a clinical trial that you might qualify for. If you qualify for more than one, we can help you decide which trial is the best for your individual situation. If you don’t qualify, we may have an observational study opportunity available, since the eligibility criteria are typically less restrictive. Some of our observational studies are paid opportunities, as well.

Are there other resources available?

The following list contains links to websites with helpful information for HCC patients: