Published online Aug 7, 2019. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v25.i29.3870
Peer-review started: March 18, 2019
First decision: May 14, 2019
Revised: May 23, 2019
Accepted: July 1, 2019
Article in press: July 3, 2019
Published online: August 7, 2019
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) accounts for the majority of primary liver cancers. To date, most patients with HCC are diagnosed at an advanced tumor stage, excluding them from potentially curative therapies (i.e., resection, liver transplantation, percutaneous ablation). Treatments with palliative intent include chemoembolization and systemic therapy. Among systemic treatments, the small-molecule multikinase inhibitor sorafenib has been the only systemic treatment available for advanced HCC over 10 years. More recently, other small-molecule multikinase inhibitors (e.g., regorafenib, lenvatinib, cabozantinib) have been approved for HCC treatment. The promising immune checkpoint inhibitors (e.g., nivolumab, pembrolizumab) are still under investigation in Europe while in the US nivolumab has already been approved by FDA in sorafenib refractory or resistant patients. Other molecules, such as the selective CDK4/6inhibitors (e.g., palbociclib, ribociclib), are in earlier stages of clinical development, and the c-MET inhibitor tivantinib did not show positive results in a phase III study. However, even if the introduction of targeted agents has led to great advances in patient response and survival with an acceptable toxicity profile, a remarkable inter-individual heterogeneity in therapy outcome persists and constitutes a significant problem in disease management. Thus, the identification of biomarkers that predict which patients will benefit from a specific intervention could significantly affect decision-making and therapy planning. Germ-line variants have been suggested to play an important role in determining outcomes of HCC systemic therapy in terms of both toxicity and treatment efficacy. Particularly, a number of studies have focused on the role of genetic polymorphisms impacting the drug metabolic pathway and membrane translocation as well as the drug mechanism of action as predictive/prognostic markers of HCC treatment. The aim of this review is to summarize and critically discuss the pharmacogenetic literature evidences, with particular attention to sorafenib and regorafenib, which have been used longer than the others in HCC treatment.
Core tip: Patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) have few effective therapeutic options. Although multikinase inhibitors-such as sorafenib as first-line treatment and regorafenib in sorafenib progressors-show some overall survival benefit, unmet needs persist in the treatment of advanced HCC. Particularly, the identification of potential prognostic and predictive biomarkers for better stratifying and personalizing the treatment remains a challenge. Germ-line polymorphisms have been suggested to contribute significantly to inter-individual variability in HCC therapy outcome in terms of both toxicity and effectiveness, opening new avenues for pharmacogenetic investigation.