Immunotherapy in hepatocellular carcinoma: evaluation and management of adverse events associated with atezolizumab plus bevacizumab

Ther Adv Med Oncol. 2021 Jul 29;13:17588359211031141. doi: 10.1177/17588359211031141. eCollection 2021.


In light of positive efficacy and safety findings from the IMbrave150 trial of atezolizumab plus bevacizumab, this novel combination has become the preferred first-line standard of care for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Several additional trials are ongoing that combine an immune checkpoint inhibitor with another agent such as a multiple kinase inhibitor or antiangiogenic agent. Therefore, the range of first-line treatment options for unresectable HCC is likely to increase, and healthcare providers need succinct information about the use of such combinations, including their efficacy and key aspects of their safety profiles. Here, we review efficacy and safety data on combination immunotherapies and offer guidance on monitoring and managing adverse events, especially those associated with atezolizumab plus bevacizumab. Because of their underlying liver disease and high likelihood of portal hypertension, patients with unresectable HCC are at particular risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, and this risk may be exacerbated by treatments that include antiangiogenic agents. Healthcare providers also need to be alert to the risks of proteinuria and hypertension, colitis, hepatitis, and reactivation of hepatitis B or C virus infection. They should also be aware of the possibility of rarer but potentially life-threatening adverse events such as pneumonitis and cardiovascular events. Awareness of the risks associated with these therapies and knowledge of adverse event monitoring and management will become increasingly important as the therapeutic range broadens in unresectable HCC.

Keywords: antiangiogenic agent; bleeding; endoscopy; immune checkpoint inhibitor; portal hypertension; safety.

Publication types

  • Review