Hepatic arterial embolization versus chemoembolization in the treatment of liver metastases from well-differentiated midgut endocrine tumors: a prospective randomized study

Neuroendocrinology. 2012;96(4):294-300. doi: 10.1159/000336941. Epub 2012 Apr 11.


Background: Liver surgery is the best treatment for endocrine liver metastases, but it is often impossible due to diffuse disease. Systemic chemotherapy is poorly effective. Hepatic arterial embolization (HAE) and chemoembolization (HACE) have shown efficacy but have never been compared.

Patients and methods: Patients with progressive unresectable liver metastases from midgut endocrine tumors were randomly assigned to receive HAE or HACE (two procedures at 3-month interval). The primary end point was the 2-year progression-free survival (PFS) rate. Secondary end points were response rates, overall survival, and safety.

Results: Twelve patients were assigned to receive HACE and 14 to receive HAE. The patient characteristics were well matched across the treatment arms. The 2-year PFS rates were 38 and 44% in the HACE and HAE arms, respectively (p = 0.90). Age, gender, previous resection of the primary tumor or liver metastases, extent of liver involvement, and concomitant treatment with somatostatin analogues were not associated with changes in PFS, whereas elevated baseline urinary 5-HIAA and serum chromogranin A levels were associated with shorter PFS. The 2-year overall survival rates were 80 and 100% in the HACE and HAE arms, respectively (p = 0.16). The disease control rate on CT scan was 95%. Grade 3 toxicity occurred in 19% of patients, with no treatment-related deaths and no differences in the treatment arms.

Conclusion: HACE and HAE are safe and permit tumor control in 95% of patients with progressive liver metastases from midgut endocrine tumors. The 2-year PFS was not higher among patients receiving HACE, not favoring the hypothesis of an additive efficacy of arterial chemotherapy or embolization alone.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chemoembolization, Therapeutic / methods*
  • Doxorubicin / administration & dosage*
  • Embolization, Therapeutic / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Hepatic Artery* / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intra-Arterial
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / drug therapy
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / pathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Doxorubicin