Published online May 21, 2021. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v27.i19.2415
Peer-review started: January 26, 2021
First decision: February 27, 2021
Revised: March 10, 2021
Accepted: April 21, 2021
Article in press: April 21, 2021
Published online: May 21, 2021
The majority of clinical trials of first-line systemic treatments for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) used placebo or sorafenib as comparators, and there are limited data providing a cross comparison of treatments in this setting, especially for newly-approved immune checkpoint inhibitor and vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitor combination treatments.
To systematically review and compare response rates, survival outcomes, and safety of first-line systemic therapies for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma.
We searched PubMed, Science Direct, the Cochrane Database, Excerpta Medica Database, and abstracts from the American Society of Clinical Oncology 2020 annual congress. Eligible studies were randomized controlled trials of systemic therapy enrolling adults with advanced/unresectable HCC. Risk of bias was assessed with the Cochrane risk of bias tool for randomized controlled trials. A network meta-analysis was used to synthesize data and perform direct and indirect comparisons between treatments. P value, a frequentist analog to the surface under the cumulative ranking curve, was used to rank treatments.
In total, 1398 articles were screened and 27 included. Treatments compared were atezolizumab plus bevacizumab, brivanib, donafenib, dovitinib, FOLFOX4, lenvatinib, linifanib, nintedanib, nivolumab, sorafenib, sunitinib, vandetanib, 11 sorafenib combination therapies, and three other combination therapies. For overall response rate, lenvatinib ranked 1/19, followed by atezolizumab plus bevacizumab and nivolumab. For progression-free survival (PFS), atezolizumab + bevacizumab was ranked 1/15, followed by lenvatinib. With the exception of atezolizumab + bevacizumab [hazard ratios (HR)PFS = 0.90; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.64-1.25], the estimated HRs for PFS for all included treatments vs lenvatinib were > 1; however, the associated 95%CI passed through unity for bevacizumab plus erlotinib, linifanib, and FOLFOX4. For overall survival, atezolizumab plus bevacizumab was ranked 1/25, followed by vandetanib 100 mg/d and donafinib, with lenvatinib ranked 6/25. Atezolizumab + bevacizumab was associated with a lower risk of death vs lenvatinib (HRos = 0.63; 95%CI: 0.44-0.89), while the HR for overall survival for most other treatments vs lenvatinib had associated 95%CIs that passed through unity. Vandetanib 300 mg/d and 100 mg/d were ranked 1/13 and 2/13, respectively, for the lowest incidence of treatment terminations due to adverse events, followed by sorafenib (5/13), lenvatinib (10/13), and atezolizumab + bevacizumab (13/13).
There is not one single first-line treatment for advanced HCC associated with superior outcomes across all outcome measurements. Therefore, first-line systemic treatment should be selected based on individualized treatment goals.
Core Tip: The present network meta-analysis is the first to compare data from randomized trials of all first-line systemic therapies for hepatocellular carcinoma including chemotherapy, targeted drugs, immunotherapy, and combination therapies. Furthermore, the analysis represents a comprehensive cross comparison of outcomes, including tumor response rates, survival, and safety and included a sub-analysis in patients with hepatitis B virus infection. Our results showed that atezolizumab plus bevacizumab was ranked first for progression-free survival and overall survival but also had the highest rate of discontinuations due to adverse events. Lenvatinib ranked first for overall response rate and second for progression-free survival.