Monofocal hepatocellular carcinoma: How much does size matter?

Italian Liver Cancer (ITA.LI.CA) group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND & AIMS: According to the Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) staging system, monofocal hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is classified as early (BCLC A) irrespective of its size, even though controversies still exist regarding staging and treatment of large tumours. We aimed at evaluating the appropriate staging and treatment for large (>5 cm) monofocal (HCC). METHODS: From the Italian Liver Cancer database, we selected 924 patients with small early monofocal HCC (2-5 cm; SEM-HCC), 163 patients with larger tumours (>5 cm; LEM-HCC) and 1048 intermediate stage patients (BCLC B). RESULTS: LEM-HCC patients had a worse overall survival (OS) than SEM-HCC (31.0 vs 49.0 months; P < .0001), and this was confirmed at multivariate analysis (HR 1.63, 95% CI 1.29-2.05; P < .0001). The small difference in OS between LEM-HCC and BCLC B patients (31.0 vs 27.0 months; P = .03) disappeared in the multivariate model (HR 0.98, 95% CI 0.77-1.25; P = .89). In all monofocal tumours, treatment was the strongest independent predictor of survival, with a progressively decreasing survival benefit moving from "curative" to "palliative" therapies. The survival of resected patients with LEM-HCC was significantly shorter than that of SEM-HCC (44.0 vs 78.0 months; P = .002), but liver resection provided the highest survival benefit in both groups compared to other treatments. CONCLUSIONS: Monofocal HCC larger than 5 cm should not be staged as BCLC A and either a different staging system or a different subgrouping of patients (e.g. BCLC AB) should be used. Liver resection, if feasible, remains the recommended treatment for all these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-407
Number of pages12
JournalLiver international : official journal of the International Association for the Study of the Liver
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2021


  • bclc staging system
  • liver resection
  • monofocal hepatocellular carcinoma
  • prognosis
  • treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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