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Pediatric hepatocellular carcinoma: challenges and solutions

Authors Schmid I, von Schweinitz D

Received 21 May 2016

Accepted for publication 15 November 2016

Published 16 January 2017 Volume 2017:4 Pages 15—21


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Lucy Goodman

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Ravi Murthy

Irene Schmid,1 Dietrich von Schweinitz,2

1Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, 2Department of Pediatric Surgery, Dr. von Hauner Children`s Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany

Abstract: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a very rare entity in children, making it nearly impossible to orchestrate Phase II/III studies even as multinational cooperative trials. In contrast to adults, nearly 50% of the children have a response (α-fetoprotein decline and/or tumor shrinkage) to chemotherapeutic agents such as cisplatin and doxorubicin (PLADO), demonstrating that HCC in childhood can be chemotherapy sensitive. As a result, the main treatment options in pediatric HCC focus on systemic drug therapies and resection as the central therapy. In nonmetastatic patients with complete resection upfront, the 5-year event-free survival and overall survival has reached 80%–90%. In almost all reported studies, children received adjuvant chemotherapy (mostly PLADO), but it has never been proven that postoperative chemotherapy is superior to observation. No data are available for the effects of sorafenib. The 3-year survival is <20% in children with unresectable HCC independent of the chemotherapy given preoperatively. Currently, PLADO in combination with sorafenib is recommended with the goal of achieving operability status. Alternatively, data are promising for the combination of sorafenib with gemcitabine and oxaliplatin. For children with nonresectable and nonmetastastic liver tumors, it has been shown that the Milan criteria regarding liver transplantation are not applicable – individual decisions have to be made. Transarterial chemoembolization could be offered to patients with chemotherapy-resistant liver tumors for palliative care or potentially to achieve surgical resectability, and therefore cure. Information about the feasibility or effects of new agents or approaches as discussed in adult HCC patients is not available for childhood HCC. Research has to be done for characterizing the molecular and genomic mechanisms of pediatric HCC to support the development of novel therapeutic approaches and the implementation of personalized medicine.

hepatocellular carcinoma, pediatric, sorafenib, cisplatin, doxorubicin

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