Source *Sections of Health Services Research ‡Gastroenterology at the Houston Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX †Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI/DHHS.
GOALS: : To evaluate the utilization and determinants of receiving palliative treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and its effect on survival.
BACKGROUND: : Palliative treatment for HCC, including transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) and systemic chemotherapy, is available for patients who do not receive potentially curative therapy. The utilization and outcomes of these therapies in clinical practice are unknown.
STUDY: : We conducted a population-based cohort study using the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End-Results Registry data linked to Medicare claims of HCC patients aged above 65 years diagnosed during 2000 to 2005 who did not receive liver transplant, resection, or ablation. The proportions of patients who received TACE or systemic chemotherapy were calculated by tumor stage, liver disease status, and non-HCC comorbidity. Determinants of receiving palliative therapy were examined in logistic regression models and propensity scores were calculated. Cox proportional hazards models were used to evaluate mortality risk.
RESULTS: : We identified 3163 HCC patients (median age, 75 y; 67% men) who did not receive potentially curative treatment. Approximately 12.5% of patients received TACE and 11.0% received chemotherapy. In patients with early or intermediate stage HCC, no liver decompensation, and little or no comorbidity, only 22.8% received TACE and 13.8% received chemotherapy. Median survival was significantly higher among patients who received TACE (14.0 mo) compared with who received chemotherapy (5.0 mo) or no therapy (2.0 mo). A significant reduction in overall mortality was observed for TACE (54%) and chemotherapy (33%).
CONCLUSIONS: : Utilization of palliative treatment for HCC is low, which could not be explained by clinical features. However, misclassification could have occurred due to the data source. Receipt of TACE or systemic chemotherapy was associated with a reduction in mortality.