Tumor and liver determinants of prognosis in unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma: a large case cohort study

Hepatol Int. 2009 Dec 24;4(1):396-405. doi: 10.1007/s12072-009-9157-7.


Objectives: 967 patients with unresectable and untransplantable, biopsy-proven hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) were prospectively evaluated at baseline and followed up till death. Survival was the end point.

Results: We found that male gender, ascites, cirrhosis, portal vein thrombosis (PVT), elevated AFP or bilirubin, or alkaline phosphatase, were each statistically significant adverse prognostic factors. Patients with normal AFP survived longer than those with elevated AFP, even in the presence of PVT, large or bilobar tumors or cirrhosis. We used a bivariate analysis to separate patient sub groups based on liver function and tumor characteristics and found clear discrimination in survival between subsets; in addition both cirrhosis and presence of PVT were significant factors. We also used a purely mathematical approach to derive subgroups and a prognostic model for individual patients. Interestingly, the two approaches gave similar predictive information, which opens the possibility of a more detailed mathematical analysis in the future. The results of this large dataset show that amongst non-surgical HCC patients, there are clear subsets with longer survival.

Conclusion: The data supports the concept of heterogeneity of HCC. The three factors, bilirubin, AFP, and PVT predominate in prognosis.