Background: Transplantation, surgical resection, radiofrequency ablation, and percutaneous ethanol injection are generally considered potentially curative treatments for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). With the increasing incidence of HCC, it is critical to investigate geographic variations in curative treatments and their associations with survival among patients. Methods: A total of 6,782 patients with HCC during 2004 to 2011 were identified in the SEER-Medicare linked database and placed in quartiles based on the proportions undergoing potentially curative treatments per hospital referral region (HRR). Hierarchical Cox proportional hazards models were used to examine the association between regional potentially curative treatment patterns and survival across quartiles. Results: An average of 16.9% of patients with HCC underwent potentially curative treatments during 2004 to 2011, varying substantially from 0% to 34.5% across HRRs. Compared with patients residing in the lowest-quartile regions, those in the highest-quartile regions were more likely to be of other races (vs white or black), be infected with hepatitis B virus, and have more comorbidities. The 5-year survival was 4.7% in the lowest-quartile regions and 11.4% in the highest-quartile regions (P<.001). After controlling for confounders, patients in the highest-quartile regions had a lower risk of mortality (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.72–0.85). Conclusions: Patients with HCC who resided in HRRs with higher proportions of potentially curative treatments had better survival. Given its proven survival benefits, prompt clinical and policy actions are needed to reduce variations in treatment utilization.
Submitted October 16, 2019; accepted for publication January 6, 2020.
Author contributions: Study concept: Cheng, Wang. Data analysis: Cheng, Hung. Manuscript preparation: Cheng, Hung. Critical revision: Hung, Wang. Study supervision: Cheng, Wang.
Disclosures: Dr. Wang has disclosed that he receives grant/research support from Genentech. The remaining authors have disclosed that they have not received any financial consideration from any person or organization to support the preparation, analysis, results, or discussion of this article.