Clinical Edge Journal Scan

Commentary: Evaluating HCC Treatments, October 2022

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

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Nevena Damjanov, MD

Patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) may benefit from liver-directed therapies or palliative systemic therapies. This month we will review articles that address management of patients who were treated with different standard treatment options.

Komatsu and colleagues performed a case-matched analysis to evaluate the best first-line treatment for HCC in patients with macroscopic portal vein tumor thrombus (PVTT). Patients had advanced HCC and macroscopic PVTT that invaded an ipsilateral first-order portal branch, main trunk, or contralateral portal vein. The propensity score–matched groups underwent either hepatectomy (n = 36) or received sorafenib (n = 36). To be considered for resection, patients had to have Child-Pugh (CP) grade A or B liver function, an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Performance Status score of ≤ 1, life expectancy of > 3 months, and the macroscopic resection of the targeted tumor could be planned with an estimated remnant liver volume ≥ 35%.

Out of 36 patients who underwent surgery, 23 underwent reductive hepatectomy, and 13 underwent complete resection of tumor. Out of 36 patients who received sorafenib, 21 underwent subsequent treatments. The median overall survival (OS) of patients who underwent hepatectomy was 15.1 months, significantly longer than the 4.5 months for patients who were treated with sorafenib. The authors concluded that selected patients who underwent tumor resection lived longer than patients who received systemic therapy with sorafenib first, despite the presence of macroscopic PVTT.

Lenvatinib is an approved treatment for patients with HCC. Because most patients with HCC have underlying cirrhosis, monitoring the underlying liver function is an important facet of patient management. Huynh and colleagues reported on patients in the REFLECT trial whose liver function deteriorated from CP-A to CP-B while receiving systemic therapy. This post hoc analysis included patients whose liver function deteriorated to CP-B or remained CP-A within 8 weeks of randomization to lenvatinib (CP-B: n = 60; CP-A: n = 413) or sorafenib (CP-B: n = 47; CP-A: n = 427). Patients receiving lenvatinib who developed CP-B cirrhosis compared with patients who maintained CP-A cirrhosis had a median progression-free survival (PFS) of 3.7 months (95% CI 1.8-7.4) vs 6.5 months (95% CI 5.6-7.4) and OS of 6.8 months (95% CI 2.6-10.3) vs 13.3 months (95% CI 11.6-16.1). CP-B patients receiving sorafenib had a median PFS and OS of only 0.5 months (95% CI 0.1-3.6) and 4.5 months (95% CI 2.9-6.1), respectively. No new safety signals were reported in CP-B patients. The investigators concluded that deterioration of liver function to CP-B does not require the discontinuation of lenvatinib therapy.

Finally, Brown and colleagues performed a meta-analysis of studies that evaluated transarterial radioembolization (TARE) and transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) in patients with HCC by reviewing 17 studies involving 2465 patients that directly compared TACE and TARE. TARE significantly prolonged the mean time to progression (17.5 vs 9.8 months; 95% CI 1.3-8.3 months) but resulted in comparable OS (absolute difference −0.55 months; 95% CI −1.95 to 3.05 months). Safety profiles appeared to favor TARE. The authors concluded that TACE and TARE should be compared in larger prospective studies to better compare survival, progression, and safety data.

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TARE vs TACE prolongs time to progression in HCC but not overall survival