Preoperative systemic chemoimmunotherapy and sequential resection for unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma

Ann Surg. 2001 Feb;233(2):236-41. doi: 10.1097/00000658-200102000-00013.


Objective: To examine the surgical and pathologic findings of 15 patients who had initially unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and received preoperative systemic chemoimmunotherapy and sequential resection.

Summary background data: More than 80% of patients with HCC present for treatment at an unresectable stage. Conventional treatment has produced a low tumor response rate in this group of patients. Recently, new systemic chemoimmunotherapy has been found to be effective and able to make previously unresectable HCC resectable. Sequential resection after response to chemoimmunotherapy could therefore induce complete clinical remission.

Methods: From July 1996 to February 1999, 150 patients with unresectable HCC were treated with systemic chemoimmunotherapy consisting of cisplatin, alpha-interferon, doxorubicin, and 5-fluorouracil for a maximum of six cycles. The residual tumors were reassessed for resectability after treatment aiming at complete remission in the patients after combined modality treatment. Twenty-seven patients had a more than 50% regression in tumor size (2 complete remissions, 25 partial remissions). Fifteen patients had resectable disease after treatment, and all underwent sequential resection with curative intent. Treatment outcome and the surgical and pathologic features of these 15 patients were studied.

Results: Fifteen of 150 patients responded to chemoimmunotherapy and underwent sequential resection. They were considered to have unresectable disease as a result of extensive local disease (with and without major vascular involvement) in 10 patients and the presence of extrahepatic or metastatic disease in 5 patients. All patients except two were hepatitis B carriers. Surgical resection of the residual lesion after chemoimmunotherapy was successful for all patients. Eight of the patients had complete pathologic remission. The rest had minimal residual disease (<5%) only. All 15 patients entered complete clinical remission after surgery. Thirteen patients were still alive as of this writing and two had died of recurrent disease. The 1-, 2-, and 3-year survival rates were 100%, 100%, and 53%, respectively. The mean follow-up period was 27 months (range 15-37). Neither the median disease-free nor overall survival had been reached. Ten patients remained in complete remission as of this writing.

Conclusion: Combined modalities with systemic chemoimmunotherapy and surgical resection can achieve complete clinical remission and long-term control of disease in patients with unresectable HCC.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / therapy*
  • Child
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Preoperative Care
  • Survival Rate