Department of General Surgery, The First Hospital of Lanzhou University, Gansu, China.
The high recurrence rate of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) after potentially curative treatment determines the long-term prognosis.
To evaluate the efficacy and safety of adjuvant therapies in patients with HCC who have undergone hepatic resection, transplantation or locoregional ablation therapy.
Several databases were searched to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) fulfilling the predefined selection criteria. Meta-analyses were performed to estimate the effects of adjuvant therapies of any modality on recurrence-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS).
Eight adjuvant modalities were identified from 27 eligible RCTs conducted predominantly in Asian populations comparing adjuvant with no adjuvant therapy. Adjuvant chemotherapy, internal radiation and heparanase inhibitor PI-88 therapy failed to improve RFS or OS, while interferon (IFN) therapy yielded significant survival results. The findings of adjuvant vitamin analogue therapy required further examination. Adjuvant adoptive immunotherapy conferred significant benefit for RFS but not for OS. Although cancer vaccine therapy and radioimmunotherapy may improve survival after radical surgery, the results were from single, small-scale trials. Severe side effects were observed in the studies of adjuvant chemotherapy and of IFN therapy.
Adjuvant IFN therapy can improve both RFS and OS; however, the benefits of using this agent should be weighed against its side effects. Combination of systemic and transhepatic arterial chemotherapy is not recommended for HCC after potentially curative treatment. Other adjuvant therapies produce limited success for survival. Additional RCTs with proper design are required to establish the role of adjuvant therapies for HCC.