The development of nanostructures for therapeutic purpose is rapidly growing, following the results obtained in vivo in animal models and in the clinical trials. Unfortunately, the potential therapeutic efficacy is not completely exploited, yet. This is mainly due to the fast clearance of the nanostructures in the body. Nanoparticles and the liver have a unique interaction because the liver represents one of the major barriers for drug delivery. This interaction becomes even more relevant and complex when the drug delivery strategies employing nanostructures are proposed for the therapy of liver diseases, such as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In this case, the selective delivery of therapeutic nanoparticles to the tumor microenvironment collides with the tendency of nanostructures to be quickly eliminated by the organ. The design of a new therapeutic approach based on nanoparticles to treat HCC has to particularly take into consideration passive and active mechanisms to avoid or delay liver elimination and to specifically address cancer cells or the cancer microenvironment. This review will analyze the different aspects concerning the dual role of the liver, both as an organ carrying out a clearance activity for the nanostructures and as target for therapeutic strategies for HCC treatment.
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