Background: Recent evidence suggests that transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) combined with radiofrequency ablation (RFA) or a percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI) may have a synergistic effect in treating hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The aim of the current meta-analysis was to identify the survival benefits of TACE combined with percutaneous ablation (PA) therapy (RFA or PEI) for unresectable HCC compared with those of TACE or PA alone.
Methods: Randomized-controlled trials (RCTs) published as full papers or abstracts were searched to assess the survival benefit or tumour recurrence for patients with unresectable HCC on electronic databases. The primary outcome was survival. The secondary outcomes were response to therapy and tumour recurrence.
Results: Ten RCTs met the criteria to perform a meta-analysis including 595 participants. TACE combined with PA therapy, respectively improved, 1-, 2-, and 3-year overall survival compared with that of monotherapy [odds ratio (OR) 2.28, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.14–4.57; P=0.020], (OR=4.53, 95% CI 2.62–7.82, P<0.00001) and (OR=3.50, 95% CI 1.75–7.02, P=0.0004). Sensitivity analysis demonstrated a significant benefit in 1-, 2- and 3-year overall survival of TACE plus PEI compared with that of TACE alone for patients with large HCC lesions, but not in TACE plus RFA vs RFA for patients with small HCCs. The pooled result of five RCTs showed that combination therapy decreased tumour recurrence compared with that of monotherapy (OR=0.45, 95% CI 0.26–0.78, P=0.004).
Conclusion: TACE combined with PA therapy especially PEI improved the overall survival status for large HCCs.