Abstract Background. There is a paucity of information on the clinical presentation and outcome of elderly hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients. We performed a multicenter retrospective comparative study to assess the impact of age on potential differences in clinical characteristics, treatment patterns, and outcome in HCC patients.
Methods. We retrospectively analyzed HCC patients treated at two U.S. tertiary institutions from 1998 to 2008. Demographics, tumor parameters, etiology and severity of cirrhosis, treatment, and survival from diagnosis were collected and analyzed. After exclusion of transplanted patients, survival analyses were performed using the Kaplan-Meier method with log-rank tests and Cox proportional hazards models.
Results. Three hundred thirty-five HCC patients were divided into two groups: "elderly" (95 patients, age ≥70 years) and "younger" (240 patients, aged <70 years). The male/female (M/F) ratio was 5.8:1 and 1.7:1 in the younger and elderly groups, respectively (p < .0001). Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection rate was 48.3% in younger and 21.1% in elderly patients (p < .0001); Child class B and C cirrhosis accounted for 35.8% in younger and 25.3% in elderly patients (p = .063). Compared with younger patients, the elderly received transplant less frequently (19.6% versus 5.3%, p = .0002) and were more likely to receive supportive care only (22.9% versus 36.8%, p = .01). No significant differences between the two age groups were seen in tumor parameters or other treatments received. Overall (p = .47) and HCC-specific survival rates (p = .38) were similar in both age groups.
Conclusions. Characteristics that distinguish elderly from younger HCC patients include lower M/F ratio, worse performance status, lower rate of HCV infection, and less advanced underlying cirrhosis. Elderly patients were less likely to have a liver transplant and more likely to receive supportive care only. However, overall and HCC-specific survival were similar between the two groups.