Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a primary cancer of the liver with an established causal link to viral hepatitis and other forms of chronic liver disease.
Aims: The aim of this study was to analyse the determinants of outcome in patients with HCC referred to a tertiary centre for management.
Method: Two hundred and thirty-five prospective patients with HCC and minimum 12-month follow-up were studied.
Results: The cohort was heterogeneous, with 52% Caucasian, 40% Asian and 5% of Middle-Eastern origin. Independent predictors of outcome included tumour size and number, the presence of ascites or portal vein thrombosis, α-foetoprotein >50 U/L and an impaired performance status. Treatment was determined on an individual case basis by a multidisciplinary tumour team. Surgical resection was primary treatment in 43 patients, liver transplantation in 40 patients, local ablation (percutaneous radiofrequency ablation or alcohol injection) in 33 patients, transarterial chemoembolisation in 33 patients, chemotherapy or other systemic therapy in 30 patients and no treatment in 56 patients. After adjustment for significant covariates, both liver transplantation (P<0.001) and surgical resection (P=0.029) had a significant effect on patient survival compared with no treatment, but local ablation (P=0.410) and chemoembolisation (P=0.831) did not. Liver transplantation resulted in superior overall and, in particular, disease-free survival compared with surgical resection (disease-free survival 84 vs 15% at 5 years).
Conclusion: In conclusion, both surgical resection and liver transplantation significantly improve the survival of patients with HCC, but improvements need to be made to the delivery of loco-regional therapy to enhance its effectiveness.