First-Line Targeted Therapy for Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Role of Atezolizumab/Bevacizumab Combination

Biomedicines. 2022 Jun 2;10(6):1304. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines10061304.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an aggressive malignancy accounting for 90% of primary liver malignancies. Therapeutic options for HCC are primarily based on the baseline functional status, the extent of disease at presentation and the underlying liver function that is clinically evaluated by the Barcelona-Clinic Liver Cancer system and Child−Pugh score. In patients with advanced HCC, the United States Food and Drug Administration (US-FDA) approved systemic therapies include the combination of atezolizumab−bevacizumab, sorafenib, and lenvatinib in the first line setting while cabozantinib, regorafenib, ramucirumab (in patients with alfa-fetoprotein [AFP] > 400 ng/mL), pembrolizumab, nivolumab, and nivolumab-ipilimumab combination are reserved for patients who progressed on sorafenib. European Medical Agency (EMA) approved the use of atezolizumab−bevacizumab, sorafenib, and lenvatinib in the first line setting, while cabozantinib, regorafenib, and ramucirumab (in patients with alfa-fetoprotein [AFP] > 400 ng/mL) are approved for use in patients that progressed on first-line therapy. In the first line setting, sorafenib demonstrated a median overall survival (OS) benefit of 3 months as compared to that of best supportive care in randomized phase III trials, while lenvatinib was shown to be non-inferior to sorafenib. Recently, phase 3 studies with immunotherapeutic agents including atezolizumab plus a bevacizumab combination and tremelimumab plus durvalumab combination demonstrated a better OS and progression free survival (PFS) compared to sorafenib in the first-line setting, making them attractive first-line options in advanced HCC. In this review, we outlined the tumorigenesis and immune landscape of HCC in brief and discussed the role and rationale of combining immunotherapy and anti-VEGF therapy. We further expanded on potential limitations and the future directions of immunotherapy in combination with targeted agents in the management of advanced HCC.

Keywords: atezolizumab; bevacizumab; immunotherapy; liver cancer; nivolumab.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.