Risk factors and prevention of hepatocellular carcinoma in the era of precision medicine

Naoto Fujiwara, Scott L. Friedman, Nicolas Goossens, Yujin Hoshida

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

390 Scopus citations


Patients who develop chronic fibrotic liver disease, caused by viral or metabolic aetiologies, are at a high risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Even after complete HCC tumour resection or ablation, the carcinogenic tissue microenvironment in the remnant liver can give rise to recurrent de novo HCC tumours, which progress into incurable, advanced-stage disease in most patients. Thus, early detection and prevention of HCC development is, in principle, the most impactful strategy to improve patient prognosis. However, a “one-size-fits-all” approach to HCC screening for early tumour detection, as recommended by clinical practice guidelines, is utilised in less than 20% of the target population, and the performance of screening modalities, including ultrasound and alpha-fetoprotein, is suboptimal. Furthermore, optimal screening strategies for emerging at-risk patient populations, such as those with chronic hepatitis C after viral cure, or those with non-cirrhotic, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease remain controversial. New HCC biomarkers and imaging modalities may improve the sensitivity and specificity of HCC detection. Clinical and molecular HCC risk scores will enable precise HCC risk prediction followed by tailoured HCC screening of individual patients, maximising cost-effectiveness and optimising allocation of limited medical resources. Several aetiology-specific and generic HCC chemoprevention strategies are evolving. Epidemiological and experimental studies have identified candidate chemoprevention targets and therapies, including statins, anti-diabetic drugs, and selective molecular targeted agents, although their clinical testing has been limited by the lengthy process of cancer development that requires long-term, costly studies. Individual HCC risk prediction is expected to overcome the challenge by enabling personalised chemoprevention, targeting high-risk patients for precision HCC prevention and substantially improving the dismal prognosis of HCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)526-549
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer screening
  • Chemoprevention
  • Cirrhosis
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Precision medicine
  • Risk prediction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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