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.
Screening Process Failures for Hepatocellular Carcinoma
Amit G. Singal, Jorge A. Marrero, and Adam Yopp
Vascular Invasion and Metastasis is Predictive of Outcome in Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer Stage C Hepatocellular Carcinoma
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.
Diagnostic and Therapeutic Delays in Patients With Hepatocellular Carcinoma
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.
Therapeutic Delays Lead to Worse Survival Among Patients With Hepatocellular Carcinoma
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.