BACKGROUND: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the sixth most common malignancy and the third most common cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide. Transarterial chemoembolization has shown survival benefits in patients with early to intermediate-stage HCC, becoming the standard of care and recommended treatment modality by most clinical practice guidelines. The most recent trials of the TACE plus sorafenib combined therapy in patients with unresectable HCC have yielded inconsistent outcomes. The purpose of this study was to compare the outcomes of HCC patients treated with the TACE sorafenib combination as opposed to TACE monotherapy.

METHODS: This retrospective study included all patients with unresectable HCC who underwent liver transplantation and were treated by either TACE alone or TACE plus sorafenib between July 2008-December 2019. Demographic and clinical data as well as HCC recurrence post-liver transplant (LT) were reported as frequencies and proportions for categorical variables and as the median and interquartile range (IQR) or mean. Chi-square or Fisher's exact tests were performed for categorical variables and the Kruskal-Wallis test or unpaired test was performed for continuous variables. Kaplan-Meier curves present overall patient survival and HCC-free survival.

RESULTS: A total of 128 patients received LT, with a median (IQR) age of 61.4 (57.0, 66.3) years; most were males (77%). Within the TACE-only group, 79 (77%) patients met the Milan criteria and 24 (23%) were beyond the Milan criteria, while the TACE plus sorafenib group had a higher proportion of patients beyond the Milan criteria: 16 (64%) vs. 9 (36%); p = 0.01. The five-year disease-free survival (DFS) between the treatment groups approached significance, with 100% DFS in the TACE plus sorafenib group vs. 67.2% in the TACE-alone group, p = 0.07. Five-year patient survival was 77.8% in the TACE plus sorafenib group compared to 61.5% in the TACE-alone group ( p = 0.51). However, in patients who met the beyond Milan criteria, those who received TACE alone had a lower average amount of (percent) tumor necrosis on explant pathology (43.8% ± 32%) compared to patients who received TACE plus sorafenib (69.6% ± 32.8%, p = 0.03).

CONCLUSION: This study identified that using TACE plus sorafenib is generally well-tolerated and demonstrated improved overall survival compared to TACE only in transplant recipients with unresectable HCC. A multi-center and prospective randomized controlled trial is needed to substantiate these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number650
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 27 2022


  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Immunotherapy
  • LT
  • Milan criteria
  • Sorafenib
  • TACE
  • TKI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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