Patients with Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer Stages B and C Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Time for a Subclassification

Rita Golfieri, Irene Bargellini, Carlo Spreafico, Franco Trevisani

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: The Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) intermediate and advanced stages (BCLC B and C) of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) both include heterogeneous populations. Patients classified as BCLC stage B present with different tumour burdens, and the recommended treatment is transarterial chemoembolization (TACE). A similar heterogeneity of tumour burden and liver function can be found among patients classified as BCLC stage C, which includes diverse clinical features (performance status [PS] 1-2), macrovascular invasion (MVI) including portal vein tumour (PVT) thrombosis, and/or extra-hepatic spread. Nonetheless, the anti-tumoural treatment formally recommended by Western guidelines is systemic therapy with sorafenib. Summary: Several proposals of subclassification for both these stages have been suggested in recent years, differentiating the more appropriate treatments for each substage. In particular, for BCLC stage C patients with PVT, therapeutic indications, clinical outcomes, and response to locoregional therapy are notably different in the presence of subsegmental, segmental or main PVT. Accordingly, liver resection and transarterial therapies, such as TACE or transarterial embolization (TAE) and 90 Y-radioembolization (TARE), can be performed in locally advanced HCC with intrahepatic MVI according to its extent. In fact, surgery and TACE/TAE/TARE have no contraindications in the presence of PVT limited to the subsegmental or segmental branches in Child-Pugh class A patients, whereas only TARE should be utilized when there is lobar branch involvement. The presence of PS 1 should not be sufficient to allocate patients to the advanced stage since this would preclude any potential treatment for HCC. Patients should be properly classified as BCLC C only in cases of main portal trunk PVT, and treated according to the guidelines, provided that they belong to Child-Pugh class A. Key Messages: Subclassifications of BCLC B and C stages are urgently needed and require validation in order to guide clinicians towards the most effective treatment option.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-91
Number of pages14
JournalLiver Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Advanced-stage hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Intermediate-stage hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Liver neoplasms
  • Portal vein thrombosis
  • Subclassifications of Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer stages B and C

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Oncology


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