Purpose: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of proton beam radiotherapy (PRT) for hepatocellular carcinoma.
Patients and methods: Eligibility criteria for this study were: solitary hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); no indication for surgery or local ablation therapy; no ascites; age >/= 20 years; Zubrod performance status of 0 to 2; no serious comorbidities other than liver cirrhosis; written informed consent. PRT was administered in doses of 76 cobalt gray equivalent in 20 fractions for 5 weeks. No patients received transarterial chemoembolization or local ablation in combination with PRT.
Results: Thirty patients were enrolled between May 1999 and February 2003. There were 20 male and 10 female patients, with a median age of 70 years. Maximum tumor diameter ranged from 25 to 82 mm (median, 45 mm). All patients had liver cirrhosis, the degree of which was Child-Pugh class A in 20, and class B in 10 patients. Acute reactions of PRT were well tolerated, and PRT was completed as planned in all patients. Four patients died of hepatic insufficiency without tumor recurrence at 6 to 9 months. Three of these four patients had pretreatment indocyanine green retention rate at 15 minutes of more than 50%. After a median follow-up period of 31 months (16 to 54 months), only one patient experienced recurrence of the primary tumor, and 2-year actuarial local progression-free rate was 96% (95% CI, 88% to 100%). Actuarial overall survival rate at 2 years was 66% (48% to 84%).
Conclusion: PRT showed excellent control of the primary tumor, with minimal acute toxicity. Further study is warranted to scrutinize adequate patient selection in order to maximize survival benefit of this promising modality.