Clinical Edge Journal Scan

Clinical Edge Journal Scan Commentary: HCC December 2021

Dr. Damjanov scans the journals, so you don’t have to!

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Nevena Damjanov, MD

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) benefits from multidisciplinary care. This month we will review articles that address different approaches to the treatment for HCC, their outcomes, and potential complications.

Laparoscopic HCC resections are increasing worldwide. Ivanics et al. report on a retrospective single-institution experience in North America that involves 149 patients who were matched by propensity score. Laparoscopic liver resection was performed in 57, and open liver resection was completed in 92. The laparoscopic liver resection group experienced a lower number of serious complications (14% vs 29%; P = .01). The 1-year overall survival (OS) rate was 90.9% vs 91.3% in the laparoscopic liver resection versus open liver resection group, while 3-year OS was 79.3% vs 88.5%, and 5-year OS was 70.5% vs 83.1% (P = .26). The cumulative incidence of recurrence at 1 year was 31.1% vs 18.9% in the laparoscopic liver resection versus open liver resection group, at 3 years was 59.7% vs 40.6%, and at 5 years was 62.9% vs 49.2% (P = .06). The authors concluded that laparoscopic HCC resection had fewer short-term complications, and statistically equivalent tumor control, compared to open liver resection, and should be considered as an option for treatment of patients with resectable liver cancer.

Radioembolization is a common treatment for liver-dominant HCC. Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) has a high objective response rate, but has yet to demonstrate a OS benefit. This could be due to incidental damage to the healthy liver, resulting in scarring, liver decompensation and a shorter survival. Van Doom et al. retrospectively analyzed 69 patients with advanced HCC who underwent SIRT. The primary outcome was the percentage of patients who developed Child-Pugh (CP) ≥ B7 liver disease after SIRT. The secondary outcomes were OS and response. After a median follow-up of 30 months, 38/69 patients (55%) developed CP ≥ B7. A lower ALBI score at baseline was significantly associated with a better outcome. The median OS in the SIRT-treated patients was 18 months (95% CI 14–22) compared to a case-matched cohort of 300 patients treated with sorafenib between 2007 and 2016 where the median OS was 8 months (95% CI 6–12; p = 0.0027). The authors concluded that patients with intermediate- or advanced-stage HCC treated with SIRT have a substantial risk of developing liver decompensation, but improved patient selection using the ALBI score may mitigate this risk. Note is made that the sorafenib patients were treated at a time when limited systemic options were available.

Finally, Peng et al. analyzed 699 adults with newly diagnosed HCC who were initially treated with transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) between 2010 and 2013. Initial treatment with TACE resulted in a complete response (CR) in 22.3% of the patients. The patients with a CR had a better OS than those who did not achieve CR (35.8 vs 24.0 months, P < 0.001). Predictors of lower likelihood of CR included CP B cirrhosis, higher tumor load, bilobar tumor, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) level ≥20, and platelet counts >150,000. The authors concluded that TACE is an excellent treatment for selected patients with localized HCC.

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