Introduction: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the second most common cause of cancer-induced deaths worldwide, and limited therapeutic options are available for patients with advanced disease. Ramucirumab, a monoclonal antibody that blocks the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor-2, is the first biomarker-selected systemic agent with therapeutic efficacy, tolerability, and favorable patient-reported outcomes in patients with advanced HCC and elevated serum α-fetoprotein levels ≥400 ng/mL, who are resistant or intolerant to sorafenib therapy. However, treatment-induced adverse events (AEs), such as hypertension, proteinuria, bleeding, thromboembolism, and gastrointestinal perforation remain challenging and potentially fatal concerns. Areas covered: This review discusses the published or ongoing studies and subgroup analyses on ramucirumab therapy in patients with advanced HCC. We present information on the risks of ramucirumab-induced common or rare AEs and their management. Expert opinion: Ramucirumab toxicity secondary to VEGF inhibition is similar to the AEs that are known to be associated with other VEGF-blocking antibodies. Common AEs can be safely treated using conventional measures; however, rare and potentially fatal AEs necessitate close monitoring. With regard to the safety profile, more promising ramucirumab-containing combination therapies are likely to pave the future path for effective HCC treatment.
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