Background/aims: Lipiodol chemoembolization is a widely used method of treatment in patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma, but its efficacy is still debated. The aim of our study was to assess the efficacy of lipiodol chemoembolization in patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma.
Methods: Seventy-three patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma, but without severe liver disease or portal vein occlusion, were randomly assigned to receive either repeated lipiodol chemoembolization (lipiodol, cisplatin (2 mg/kg), lecithin, and gelatin sponge injected into the hepatic artery) plus tamoxifen (40 mg) or tamoxifen alone. The main end-point was survival.
Results: The 37 patients in the lipiodol chemoembolization group received 104 courses (median 3 per patient). By 1 September 1996, 58 patients had died: 30 in the lipiodol chemoembolization group and 28 in the tamoxifen group. There was no difference in survival between the two groups (p=0.77). The relative risk of death in the lipiodol chemoembolization plus tamoxifen group as compared to the tamoxifen group was 0.92 (95% confidence interval 0.55 to 1.56). At 1 year, survival was 51% and 55%, respectively. An objective tumoral response was more frequently observed in the lipiodol chemoembolization group than in the tamoxifen group (24 versus 5.5%, respectively, p=0.046). Lipiodol chemoembolization caused two deaths and induced signs of liver failure in 51% of the patients assigned to this treatment.
Conclusion: In our randomized study, lipiodol chemoembolization did not improve the survival of patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma treated with tamoxifen.