Introduction: Until today, an optimal palliative treatment regimen has not been defined for patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma. Since the novel cytidine analog gemcitabine has shown strong antitumor effects in vitro in a human hepatoma cell line and its therapeutic potential seems well established in several different tumors including gastrointestinal adenocarcinomas, the present phase II trial using a dose-intensified biweekly administration schedule was initiated.
Patients and methods: 17 patients with histologically confirmed unresectable advanced or metastatic hepatoma were treated with gemcitabine 2,200 mg/m(2) given as a 30-min intravenous infusion on days 1 and 15. Treatment courses were repeated every 4 weeks.
Results: All patients were evaluable for response and toxicity assessment. No objective response was achieved, stable disease occurred in 8 patients (47%), and 9 progressed while on chemotherapy. The median time to progression was 4 months (range 1.5-14 months), and the median survival time was 8.5 months (range 2.5-16.0+ months). Treatment was well tolerated with mild or moderate leukopenia, thrombocytopenia and anemia representing the most common side effects. Gastrointestinal and other subjective toxicities were infrequent and also generally mild.
Conclusions: In view of the disappointing treatment results, gemcitabine using this particular dose regimen should not be considered for further investigation in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma.
Copyright 2001 S. Karger AG, Basel.