Aims: In Asian countries, transarterial chemoembolisation (TACE) has long been used for palliation of unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) without strong evidence of improved survival or quality of life. In 2002, a survival benefi of TACE was shown in two randomised controlled trials in Europe and Hong Kong. The effectiveness of interventions fo HCC is influenced by geographical factors related to diverse patient characteristics and protocols. Therefore, the validation of TACE as palliative modality for unresectable HCC requires confirmation in diverse patient populations. The aim of the present study was to assess the effectiveness of TACE for HCC in a North American population.
Materials and methods: This was a single centre prospective cohort study. Child-Pugh A cirrhosis or better patients wit unresectable HCC and without radiological evidence of metastatic disease or segmental portal vein thrombosis wer assessed between November 2001 and May 2004. Of 54 patients who satisfied the inclusion criteria, 47 underwent 80 TACE sessions. Chemoembolisation was carried out using selective hepatic artery injection of 75 mg/m(2) doxorubicin and lipiodol followed by an injection of embolic particles when necessary. Repeat treatments were carried out at 2-3 month intervals for recurrent disease. The primary outcome was overall survival; secondary outcomes were morbidity and tumour response.
Results: The survival probabilities at 1, 2 and 3 years were 76.6, 55.5 and 50%, respectively. At 6 months after the first intervention, 31% of patients had a partial response and 60% had stable disease by RECIST criteria. Minor adverse events occurred after 39% of TACEs and major adverse events after 20% of sessions, including two treatment-related deaths (4% of patients). One patient had complete cancer remission after undergoing three TACE treatments. Further progression of tumour growth was prevented in 91% of tumours at the 6 month point after the first TACE. At 3 months, serum levels of the tumour marker alpha-feto protein were significantly reduced in patients with elevated levels before TACE.
Conclusions: The survival probabilities at 1 and 2 years after TACE were comparable with results in randomised studies from Europe and Asia. Most patients tolerated TACE well, but clinicians need to be aware that moderately severe sideeffects require close monitoring and prompt intervention.