RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Phase II trial of systemic continuous fluorouracil and subcutaneous recombinant interferon Alfa-2b for treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.

PURPOSE: Because cirrhosis is extremely common in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in the United States, and it precludes the use of several chemotherapy agents, this phase II trial of fluorouracil (FU) and recombinant interferon alfa-2b (rIFNalpha2b) in HCC was launched with the assumption that it could be tolerated by cirrhotics.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Forty-three patients with HCC (34), and fibrolamellar HCC (FLHCC; nine) were treated with continuous intravenous (IV) FU (200 mg/m2/d x 21 every 28 days) and subcutaneous (SC) rIFNalpha2b (4 million U/m2) three times weekly. Survival was determined in all 43 patients, and response could be assessed in 28 HCC and 8 FLHCC patients.

RESULTS: The median ages of the patients were 63.5 and 19 years among HCC and FLHCC patients, respectively. Liver cirrhosis was present among 71% of HCC patients but among none of the FLHCC patients. Nine of 36 (25%; four of 28 [14%] HCC patients; five of eight [62.5%] FLHCC patients) patients in which a response could be assessed had a complete response (CR; one patient with FLHCC and no patients with HCC) or partial response (PR; eight patients [four HCC and four FLHCC patients]). Four HCC patients underwent resection, and two had a histologic CR; one HCC patient with a PR underwent orthotopic liver transplantation. One FLHCC patient also underwent resection without clear margins. Overall median survival was 19.5 months (95% confidence interval [CI], 11.2 to 27.8 months); median survival was 15.5 months (95% CI, 8.5 to 22.5 months) among HCC patients, and that of FLHCC patients was 23.1 months (95% CI, 10.3 to 35.9 months). Overall grade 3 or 4 toxicity included stomatitis (32.6%), fatigue (4.7%), and hematologic toxicity (9.3%).

CONCLUSION: Continuous IV FU and thrice-weekly SC rIFNalpha2b are an effective treatment, especially for FLHCC, and may have a neoadjuvant role in this disease. This regimen has activity in HCC and can be tolerated even by cirrhotic patients.

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