Hepatocellular carcinoma as an emerging morbidity in the thalassemia syndromes: A comprehensive review

Hassan M. Moukhadder, Racha Halawi, Maria Domenica Cappellini, Ali T. Taher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with thalassemia is on the rise. The 2 well recognized HCC risk factors in thalassemia are iron overload and chronic viral infection with hepatitis C. The carcinogenicity of iron is related to its induction of oxidative damage, which results in genotoxicity, and to immunologic dysregulation, which attenuates cancer immune surveillance. Chronic hepatitis B and C infections lead to necroinflammation, which can prompt progression to HCC, but an independent role of hepatitis B virus in hepatic carcinogenesis among patients with thalassemia has not been demonstrated. Screening patients who have thalassemia using magnetic resonance imaging-based liver iron concentration measurement and liver ultrasound is recommended for early detection of iron overload and HCC, respectively. Prevention primarily resides in hepatitis B vaccination, donor blood screening, hepatitis treatment, and iron chelation. Although solid data is lacking on the outcomes of HCC treatment in patients with thalassemia, a personalized approach tailored to the individual patient's comorbidities remains necessary for treatment success. Treatment modalities for HCC include surgical resection, chemoembolization, and liver transplantation, among others. Multicenter studies are needed to better explore therapeutic targets that can improve the prognosis of these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-758
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Hepatitis B virus
  • Hepatitis C virus
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Iron overload
  • Thalassemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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