1] Department of Internal Medicine, UT Southwestern Medical Center, and Parkland Health and Hospital System, Dallas, Texas, USA  Department of Clinical Sciences, University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, Texas, USA  Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA.
OBJECTIVES:Only 40% of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are diagnosed at an early stage, suggesting breakdowns in the surveillance process. The aim of our study was to assess the reasons behind surveillance process failures among patients in the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment against Cirrhosis Trial (HALT-C), which prospectively collected HCC surveillance data on a large cohort of patients.
METHODS:Binary regression analysis was used to identify predictors of consistent surveillance, which was defined as having an ultrasound and alpha-fetoprotein every 12 months. Surveillance failures among patients who developed HCC were classified into one of three categories: absence of screening, absence of follow-up, or absence of detection.
RESULTS:Over a mean follow-up of 6.1 years, 692 (68.9%) of 1,005 patients had consistent surveillance. Study site was the strongest predictor of consistent surveillance (P<0.001). After adjusting for study site, patient-level predictors of consistent surveillance included platelet count >150,000/mm(3) (hazard ratio (HR) 1.28; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.05-1.56) and complete clinic visit adherence (HR 1.72, 95% CI: 1.11-2.63). Of 83 patients with HCC, 23 (27.7%) were detected beyond Milan criteria. Three (13%) had late-stage HCC due to the absence of screening, 4 (17%) due to the absence of follow-up, and 16 (70%) due to the absence of detection.
CONCLUSIONS:Surveillance process failures, including absence of screening or follow-up, are common and potentially contribute to late-stage tumors in one-third of cases. However, the most common reason for finding HCC at a late stage was an absence of detection, suggesting better surveillance strategies are needed.