Comparative Study
Journal Article
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Safety, efficacy, and survival of different transarterial chemoembolization techniques in the management of unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma: a comparative single-center analysis.

PURPOSE: Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) has become the standard of care for the treatment of intermediate-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, current clinical practice guidelines lack consensus on the best selection of a specific TACE technique. This study aims to compare safety, tumor response, and progression-free survival (PFS) of conventional TACE (cTACE), drug-eluting bead TACE (DEB-TACE), and degradable starch microsphere TACE (DSM-TACE).

METHODS: This retrospective study included n = 192 patients with HCC who underwent first TACE with unbiased follow-up at 4-6 weeks at our center between 2008 and 2021. Eligibility for TACE was BCLC intermediate stage B, bridging/down-staging (B/D) to liver transplantation (LT), or any other stage when patients were not suitable for resection, LT, local ablation, or systemic therapy. Patients were grouped into three cohorts (n = 45 cTACE, n = 84 DEB-TACE, n = 63 DSM-TACE), and further categorized by TACE indication (B/D or palliative). Liver function and adverse events, response assessed by the modified response evaluation criteria in solid tumors (mRECIST) 4-6 weeks post-TACE and PFS were analyzed.

RESULTS: There were no significant differences in age, gender distribution, BCLC stage, or etiology of liver disease among the three TACE groups, even in the B/D or palliative subgroups. DEB-TACE induced slight increases in bilirubin in the palliative subgroup and in lactate dehydrogenase in the entire cohort 4-6 weeks post-TACE, and more adverse events in the palliative subgroup. DEB-TACE and DSM-TACE showed significantly higher disease control rates (complete and partial response, stable disease) compared to cTACE, especially in the B/D setting (p < 0.05). There was no significant difference in PFS between the groups [median PFS (months): cTACE, 10.0 vs. DEB, 7.0 vs. DSM, 10.0; p = 0.436].

CONCLUSION: Our study provides valuable perspectives in the decision-making for a specific TACE technique: DEB-TACE and DSM-TACE showed improved tumor response. DEB-TACE showed a prolonged impact on liver function and more side effects, so patients with impaired liver function should be more strictly selected, especially in the palliative subgroup.

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