Patterns and challenges of treatment sequencing in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma: Experience from a German referral center

Martha M. Kirstein, Nora Schweitzer, Theresa Winter, Katerina Lappas, Nathalie Graen, Isabell Kunstmann, Torsten Voigtländer, Tanja Reineke-Plaaß, Michael P. Manns, Frank Lehner, Thomas Rodt, Arndt Vogel*

*Corresponding author for this work
13 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aim: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most prevalent and lethal cancers. Several local and systemic therapies are available for patients with HCC depending on the stage of the disease. In clinical practice, treatment decision-making, and sequencing may be very heterogeneous. Methods: In this study, we retrospectively analyzed treatment algorithms in 2101 patients with HCC treated from 2000 to 2015 at Hannover Medical School, Germany. Results: Transarterial chemoembolization was the most common initial treatment (n = 545; 25.9%), followed by resection (n = 435, 20.7%), local-ablative procedures (n = 283, 13.5%), systemic therapies (n = 275, 13.1%), and liver transplantation (n = 52; 2.5%). Most patients were treated only once (n = 960; 59.6%). A total of 433 (26.9%) and 160 (9.9%) patients received a second line and third line treatment after recurrent or progressive disease. Patients with more than one treatment line were diagnosed at significantly earlier disease stages (P < 0.001). Using binary logistic regression, AFP ≤ 200 μg/L, albumin > 36 g/L, and small tumor size (≤50 mm) were identified as predictors of achieving more than one treatment line. Subsequent treatment stage migration to a therapy suggested for the next advanced stage occurred only in 56.9%, whereas 43.1% received treatments suggested for earlier disease stages. Only 16% of all treated patients received systemic therapy in the salvage setting. Conclusion: Most patients were treated only once, and only a minority of patients received systemic treatment. The high dropout rate for subsequent therapies needs to be considered within therapy decision-making. There is an urgent need for prospective studies to define the best time point when to switch patients from local to systemic therapies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology (Australia)
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1730-1738
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 10.2017


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