Background: Most patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) present at advanced stages. The prevalence and clinical impact of delays during diagnostic evaluation among patients with HCC is unclear. Purpose: To identify and characterize factors associated with diagnostic delays among patients with HCC. Methods: Records were reviewed for consecutive patients with cirrhosis and HCC at a large urban hospital between January 2005 and July 2012. Time from presentation to diagnosis was determined using Kaplan-Meier analysis. Diagnostic delay was defined as time to diagnosis exceeding 3 months, and multivariate logistic regression was used to identify correlates of diagnostic delays. Results: Among 457 patients with HCC, 226 (49.5%) were diagnosed as outpatients. Among these, median time-to-diagnosis was 2.2 months, with 87 patients (38.5%) experiencing a diagnostic delay. Diagnostic delays were positively associated with the presence of hepatic encephalopathy (odds ratio [OR], 2.29; 95% CI, 1.03–5.07) and negatively associated with presentation after implementation of the electronic medical records (EMR) (OR, 0.28; 95% CI, 0.15–0.52) and presentation with an abnormal ultrasound (OR, 0.36; 95% CI, 0.19–0.67) on multivariate analysis. Higher rates of diagnostic delays were observed among those with hepatic encephalopathy (56% vs 35%), whereas lower rates were seen in those who presented after EMR implementation (26% vs 60%) and those who presented with an abnormal ultrasound with or without an elevated alpha fetoprotein level (27% vs 50%). Among 49 patients with mass-forming HCC and diagnostic delay, 18% had interval tumor growth of 2 cm or greater. Conclusions: Nearly 20% of patients with HCC wait more than 3 months from presentation to diagnosis, which can contribute to interval tumor growth.
Nishant Patel, Adam C. Yopp, and Amit G. Singal
Amit G. Singal, Jorge A. Marrero, and Adam Yopp
More than 60% of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are diagnosed at a late stage, suggesting potential breakdowns in the HCC screening process. Understanding which steps in the screening process are not being performed is essential for designing effective interventions. To characterize HCC screening process failures, a retrospective cohort study of patients with cirrhosis diagnosed with HCC at a large urban safety-net hospital was conducted between 2005 and 2012. Screening process failures during the year before HCC diagnosis were characterized into 3 categories: absence of surveillance, failure of detection, and delayed follow-up. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify predictors of screening process failures. A total of 185 patients with cirrhosis and HCC were identified, of whom 91 (49%) were diagnosed at an early stage (Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer system stage A). Only 16 (8.6%) patients successfully completed the screening process. Absence of surveillance was the most common screening process failure, found in 75.7% of all patients, and was associated with trends toward lower rates of early tumor detection (odds ratio, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.23-1.09) and worse overall survival (hazard ratio, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.49-1.25). Failure of detection and delayed follow-up were found in 11.4% and 2.7% of patients, respectively.
Caitlin A. Hester, Nicole E. Rich, Amit G. Singal, and Adam C. Yopp
Background: Despite an increasing burden of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), limited data are available comparing outcomes of NASH-related hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) versus other etiologies. Methods: Patient demographic and tumor characteristics were collected for 1,051 patients diagnosed with NASH-, alcohol-related liver disease (ALD)–, hepatitis C virus (HCV)–, and hepatitis B virus (HBV)–related HCC at 2 large health systems from January 2008 through December 2016. Patient demographics, clinical characteristics, and survival were compared. Risk-adjusted treatment receipt and overall survival (OS) were examined using multivariable analysis. Results: A total of 92 patients with NASH-related HCC were compared with 153 patients with ALD-, 719 with HCV-, and 87 with HBV-related HCC. Patients with NASH were older, more likely female, and more likely Hispanic white. Patients with NASH and HBV had more compensated liver disease than those with ALD or HCV, including significantly higher proportions having noncirrhotic HCC. Despite similar surveillance receipt and Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) tumor stage at diagnosis, patients with NASH had higher rates of curative-intent therapy than those with other diseases. Unadjusted median OS was 16 months for NASH, 15 months for ALD, 14 months for HCV, and 8 months for HBV. In multivariable analysis, NASH was associated with worse OS compared with ALD (hazard ratio, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.3–2.5), but there was no difference between NASH- and HCV- or HBV-related HCC. Conclusions: Patients with NASH-related HCC present with more preserved liver function, including a higher proportion having noncirrhotic HCC, than other diseases. Despite patients having similar tumor stage at diagnosis, NASH is independently associated with worse survival compared with ALD, but similar survival compared with HCV and HBV.
Ali A. Mokdad, Amit G. Singal, Jorge A. Marrero, Hao Zhu, and Adam C. Yopp
Background: Patients with Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) stage C hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) have variable long-term outcomes. Better delineation of prognosis is important for clinical trial enrollment and clinical practice in an era of precision medicine. We hypothesized that stratification of patients with BCLC stage C HCC by presence of vascular invasion and/or metastasis improves prognostic discrimination. Methods: Using a prospectively maintained database, we identified 234 patients diagnosed with BCLC stage C HCC between 2005 and 2015. Patients were stratified into 3 groups based on tumor characteristics: (1) vascular invasion alone, (2) metastasis alone, and (3) vascular invasion and metastasis. Overall survival (OS) was compared using a Cox model. A subgroup analysis was performed based on extent of vascular invasion and site of metastasis. Results: The cohort comprised 123 patients (53%) with vascular invasion alone, 34 (15%) with metastasis alone, and 77 (33%) with both vascular invasion and metastasis. Median survival was 5.7, 3.9, and 3.0 months, respectively (P<.01). Patients with vascular invasion or metastasis alone had significantly better survival compared with those with vascular invasion and metastasis (adjusted hazard ratio [HR],0.68; 95% CI, 0.49–0.94, and HR, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.39–0.96, respectively). Compared with tumoral invasion of branch portal veins, involvement of the main portal vein was associated with worse survival (HR, 2.13; 95% CI, 1.29–3.49). OS did not differ by site of metastasis. Conclusions: Stratification of patients within the BCLC stage C staging subgroup by vascular invasion and presence of metastasis further discriminates patient prognosis. This substratification may have implications for therapy and more accurate prognostic features.
Amit G. Singal, Akbar K. Waljee, Nishant Patel, Emerson Y. Chen, Jasmin A. Tiro, Jorge A. Marrero, and Adam C. Yopp
Although prior studies have shown underuse of appropriate therapy in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), no studies to date have assessed the prevalence and clinical impact of therapeutic delays among patients with HCC. The goal of this study was to characterize and identify factors associated with underuse and delays in treatment of these patients. A retrospective cohort study was conducted of patients with cirrhosis diagnosed with HCC at a large urban safety net hospital between January 2005 and June 2012. Dates for HCC diagnosis and any treatments were recorded. Univariate and multivariate analysis was used to determine factors associated with treatment underuse and delayed treatment, which was defined as time from diagnosis to treatment exceeding 3 months. The authors identified 267 treatment-eligible patients with HCC, of whom only 62% received HCC therapy. On multivariate analysis, tumor stage (odds ratio [OR], 0.48; 95% CI, 0.36-0.65), Child-Pugh class (OR, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.28-0.84), and black race (OR, 0.55; 95% CI, 0.31-0.99) were associated with lower rates of treatment use. The median time to treatment was 1.7 months, with 31% of patients experiencing delayed treatment. Delayed treatment was associated with the presence of ascites (hazard ratio [HR], 2.8; 95% CI, 1.3-6.1) and current treatment with transarterial chemoembolization (HR, 4.8; 95% CI, 1.8-12.5). After adjusting for tumor stage and Child-Pugh class, treatment underuse (HR, 0.33; 95% CI, 0.24-0.46) and delayed treatment (HR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.30-0.84) were both associated with significantly worse survival. Results showed that, in addition to one-third of patients not receiving HCC-directed therapy, another 30% experienced significant therapeutic delays, leading to worse survival.
Mariam Naveed, Meredith Clary, Chul Ahn, Nisa Kubiliun, Deepak Agrawal, Byron Cryer, Caitlin Murphy, and Amit G. Singal
Background: Referring provider and endoscopist impressions of colonoscopy indication are used for clinical care, reimbursement, and quality reporting decisions; however, the accuracy of these impressions is unknown. This study assessed the sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive value, and overall accuracy of methods to classify colonoscopy indication, including referring provider impression, endoscopist impression, and administrative algorithm compared with gold standard chart review. Methods: We randomly sampled 400 patients undergoing a colonoscopy at a Veterans Affairs health system between January 2010 and December 2010. Referring provider and endoscopist impressions of colonoscopy indication were compared with gold-standard chart review. Indications were classified into 4 mutually exclusive categories: diagnostic, surveillance, high-risk screening, or average-risk screening. Results: Of 400 colonoscopies, 26% were performed for average-risk screening, 7% for high-risk screening, 26% for surveillance, and 41% for diagnostic indications. Accuracy of referring provider and endoscopist impressions of colonoscopy indication were 87% and 84%, respectively, which were significantly higher than that of the administrative algorithm (45%; P<.001 for both). There was substantial agreement between endoscopist and referring provider impressions (κ=0.76). All 3 methods showed high sensitivity (>90%) for determining screening (vs nonscreening) indication, but specificity of the administrative algorithm was lower (40.3%) compared with referring provider (93.7%) and endoscopist (84.0%) impressions. Accuracy of endoscopist, but not referring provider, impression was lower in patients with a family history of colon cancer than in those without (65% vs 84%; P=.001). Conclusions: Referring provider and endoscopist impressions of colonoscopy indication are both accurate and may be useful data to incorporate into algorithms classifying colonoscopy indication.
Ashwin Rao, Nicole E. Rich, Jorge A. Marrero, Adam C. Yopp, and Amit G. Singal
Background: Delays in diagnosis and treatment have been reported for many cancers, with resultant stage migration and worse survival; however, few data exist in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). These data are of particular importance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused disruptions in healthcare processes and may continue to impact cancer care for the foreseeable future. The aim of our study was to characterize the prevalence and clinical significance of diagnostic and treatment delays in patients with HCC. Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of consecutive patients diagnosed with HCC between January 2008 and July 2017 at 2 US health systems. Diagnostic and treatment delays were defined as >90 days between presentation and HCC diagnosis and between diagnosis and treatment, respectively. We used multivariable logistic regression to identify factors associated with diagnostic and treatment delays and Cox proportional hazard models to identify correlates of overall survival. Results: Of 925 patients with HCC, 39.0% were diagnosed via screening, 33.1% incidentally, and 27.9% symptomatically. Median time from presentation to diagnosis was 37 days (interquartile range, 18–94 days), with 120 patients (13.0%) experiencing diagnostic delays. Median time from HCC diagnosis to treatment was 46 days (interquartile range, 29–74 days), with 17.2% of patients experiencing treatment delays. Most (72.5%) diagnostic delays were related to provider-level factors (eg, monitoring indeterminate nodules), whereas nearly half (46.2%) of treatment delays were related to patient-related factors (eg, missed appointments). In multivariable analyses, treatment delays were not associated with increased mortality (hazard ratio, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.60–1.35); these results were consistent across subgroup analyses by Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer stage and treatment modality. Conclusions: Diagnostic and therapeutic delays exceeding 3 months are common in patients with HCC; however, observed treatment delays do not seem to significantly impact overall survival.
Ali Mokdad, Travis Browning, John C. Mansour, Hao Zhu, Amit G. Singal, and Adam C. Yopp
Background: The diagnosis and treatment of cancer is a continuum, with multiple steps and interfaces between patients and providers allowing for potential delays in cancer recognition and subsequent treatment. The diagnosis and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is especially prone to missteps along the continuum, leading to treatment delays due to non–tissue-based diagnosis and multiprovider treatments. The aim of this study was to evaluate outcome measures after implementation of a voice messaging system (VMS) designed to streamline patient referrals to downstream treatment physicians and ultimately reduce delays in HCC treatment, thereby improving outcome measures. Methods: A retrospective study of outpatients with HCC was conducted in a safety net hospital between February 2008 and January 2012. In February 2010, VMS notification of HCC to the ordering physician and downstream treating physicians was implemented. Patients were divided into 2 groups: (1) preintervention: diagnosis 2 years before implementation or failure of notification following implementation, and (2) postintervention: diagnosis 2 years after implementation. Demographics, tumor characteristics, treatment, and survival were compared. Results: This study included 96 patients diagnosed with HCC: 51 in the preintervention group and 45 in the postintervention group. The main cause of chronic liver disease was HCV infection, and no differences in symptoms, liver dysfunction, tumor characteristics, or treatment were observed between groups. The time from diagnosis to clinic contact (0.5 vs 2.9 months; P=.003) and time from detection to treatment (2.2 vs 5.5 months; P=.005) was significantly shorter after implementation of the VMS. Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer stage A status (hazard ratio [HR], 3.1; 95% CI, 2, 6), treatment (HR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1, 4), and VMS (HR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1, 3) were independently associated with overall survival. Patients diagnosed after implementation of the VMS had a median survival of 28.5 versus 15.7 months (P=.02). Conclusions: Implementation of VMS reduces time to treatment and time to clinic visit. Reduction in time to treatment is associated with improved outcome independent of tumor stage, underlying liver function, and treatment.
Melissa Magrath, Edward Yang, Chul Ahn, Christian A. Mayorga, Purva Gopal, Caitlin C. Murphy, Samir Gupta, Deepak Agrawal, Ethan A. Halm, Eric K. Borton, Celette Sugg Skinner, and Amit G. Singal
Background: Surveillance colonoscopy is required in patients with polyps due to an elevated colorectal cancer (CRC) risk; however, studies suggest substantial overuse and underuse of surveillance colonoscopy. The goal of this study was to characterize guideline adherence of surveillance recommendations after implementation of an electronic medical record (EMR)–based Colonoscopy Pathology Reporting and Clinical Decision Support System (CoRS). Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of patients who underwent colonoscopy with polypectomy at a safety-net healthcare system before (n=1,822) and after (n=1,320) implementation of CoRS in December 2013. Recommendations were classified as guideline-adherent or nonadherent according to the US Multi-Society Task Force on CRC. We defined surveillance recommendations shorter and longer than guideline recommendations as potential overuse and underuse, respectively. We used multivariable generalized linear mixed models to identify correlates of guideline-adherent recommendations. Results: The proportion of guideline-adherent surveillance recommendations was significantly higher post-CoRS than pre-CoRS (84.6% vs 77.4%; P<.001), with fewer recommendations for potential overuse and underuse. In the post-CoRS period, CoRS was used for 89.8% of cases and, compared with cases for which it was not used, was associated with a higher proportion of guideline-adherent recommendations (87.0% vs 63.4%; RR, 1.34; 95% CI, 1.23–1.42). In multivariable analysis, surveillance recommendations were also more likely to be guideline-adherent in patients with adenomas but less likely among those with fair bowel preparation and those with family history of CRC. Of 203 nonadherent recommendations, 70.4% were considered potential overuse, 20.2% potential underuse, and 9.4% were not provided surveillance recommendations. Conclusions: An EMR-based CoRS was widely used and significantly improved guideline adherence of surveillance recommendations.
Ju Dong Yang, Michael Luu, Amit G. Singal, Mazen Noureddin, Alexander Kuo, Walid S. Ayoub, Vinay Sundaram, Honore Kotler, Irene K. Kim, Tsuyoshi Todo, Georgios Voidonikolas, Todd V. Brennan, Kambiz Kosari, Andrew S. Klein, Andrew Hendifar, Shelly C. Lu, Nicholas N. Nissen, and Jun Gong
Background: It remains unknown to what extent hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) are detected very early (T1 stage; ie, unifocal <2 cm) in the United States. The aim of this study was to investigate the trends and factors associated with very early detection of HCC and resultant outcomes. Methods: Patients with HCC diagnosed from 2004 through 2014 were identified from the National Cancer Database. Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with T1 HCC detection, and Cox proportional hazard analyses identified factors associated with overall survival among patients with T1 HCC. Results: Of 110,182 eligible patients, the proportion with T1 HCC increased from 2.6% in 2004 to 6.8% in 2014 (P<.01). The strongest correlate of T1 HCC detection was receipt of care at an academic institution (odds ratio, 3.51; 95% CI, 2.31–5.34). Older age, lack of insurance, high Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score, high alpha-fetoprotein, increased Charlson-Deyo comorbidity score, and nonsurgical treatment were associated with increased mortality, and care at an academic center (hazard ratio [HR], 0.27; 95% CI, 0.15–0.48) was associated with reduced mortality in patients with T1 HCC. Liver transplantation (HR, 0.27; 95% CI, 0.20–0.37) and surgical resection (HR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.48–0.93) were independently associated with improved survival compared with ablation. This is the first study to examine the trend of T1 HCC using the National Cancer Database, which covers approximately 70% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States, using robust statistical analyses. Limitations of the study include a retrospective study design using administrative data and some pertinent data that were not available. Conclusions: Despite increases over time, <10% of HCCs are detected at T1 stage. The strongest correlates of survival among patients with T1 HCC are receiving care at an academic institution and surgical treatment.