Local radiotherapy with or without transcatheter arterial chemoembolization for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma

J C Cheng, V P Chuang, S H Cheng, A T Huang, Y M Lin, T I Cheng, P S Yang, D L You, J J Jian, S Y Tsai, J L Sung, C F Horng
International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics 2000 May 1, 47 (2): 435-42

PURPOSE: To evaluate the treatment outcome, patterns of failure, and prognostic factors for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) treated with local radiotherapy alone or as an adjunct to transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE).

METHODS AND MATERIALS: From March 1994 to December 1997, 25 patients with unresectable HCC underwent local radiotherapy to a portion of the liver. Twenty-three patients were classified as having cirrhosis in Child-Pugh class A and 2 in class B. Mean diameter of the treated hepatic tumor was 10.3 cm. Mean dose of radiation was 46.9 +/- 5.9 Gy in a daily fraction of 1.8-2 Gy. Sixteen patients were also treated with Lipiodol and chemotherapeutic agents mixed with Ivalon or Gelfoam particles for chemoembolization, either before and/or after radiotherapy. Percutaneous ethanol injection therapy (PEIT) was given to one patient. All patients were monitored for treatment-related toxicity and for survival and patterns of failure.

RESULTS: In a median follow-up period of 23 months, 11 patients were alive and 14 dead. The median survival duration from treatment was 19.2 months with a 2-year survival of 41%. Only 3 of 25 patients had local progression of the treated hepatic tumor. The recurrences were seen within the liver or extrahepatic. The 2-year local, regional, and extrahepatic progression-free survival rates were 78%, 46%, and 39%, respectively. The local control ranked the highest. Patients with Okuda Stage I disease had significantly longer survival than those with Stage II and III (p = 0.02). Patients with T4 disease (p = 0.02) or treated with radiotherapy alone (p = 0.003) had significantly shorter survival. T4 disease (p = 0.03) and pretreatment alpha-fetoprotein level of more than 200 ng/ml (p = 0. 03) were associated with significantly worse regional progression-free survival. A significant difference was observed in both regional progression-free survival (p = 0.0001) and extrahepatic progression-free survival (p = 0.005) between patients with and without portal vein thrombosis before treatment. The presence of satellite nodules had a significantly worse impact on regional progression-free survival (p = 0.04) and extrahepatic progression-free survival (p = 0.03). Patients with hepatic tumor more than 6 cm in diameter or portal vein thrombosis tended to have shorter survival. Radiation-induced liver disease (RILD) and gastrointestinal bleeding were the most common treatment-related toxicities.

CONCLUSION: Radiotherapy is effective in the treatment of patients with unresectable HCC. Its effect appeared to be more prominent within the site to which radiation was given. The combination of TACE and radiation was associated with better control of HCC than radiation given alone, probably due to the selection of patients with favorable prognosis for the combined treatment. A dose-volume model should be established in the next phase of research in the treatment of unresectable HCC.

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