Purpose: Ramucirumab is an effective treatment for patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (aHCC) and baseline alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) ≥400 ng/mL. We aimed to identify prognostic and predictive factors of response to ramucirumab in patients with aHCC with AFP ≥400 ng/mL from the phase III REACH and REACH-2 randomized trials.
Patients and methods: Patients with aHCC, Child-Pugh class A with prior sorafenib treatment were randomized in REACH and REACH-2 (ramucirumab 8 mg/kg or placebo, biweekly). Meta-analysis of individual patient-level data (pooled population) from REACH (AFP ≥400 ng/mL) and REACH-2 was performed. A drug exposure analysis was conducted for those with evaluable pharmacokinetic data. To identify potential prognostic factors for overall survival (OS), multivariate analyses were performed using a Cox proportional hazards regression model. To define predictors of ramucirumab benefit, subgroup-by-treatment interaction terms were evaluated.
Results: Of 542 patients (316 ramucirumab, 226 placebo) analyzed, eight variables had independent prognostic value associated with poor outcome (geographical region, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance score ≥1, AFP >1,000 ng/mL, Child-Pugh >A5, extrahepatic spread, high neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio, high alkaline phosphatase and aspartate aminotransferase). Ramucirumab survival benefit was present across all subgroups, including patients with very aggressive HCC [above median AFP; HR: 0.64; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.49-0.84] and nonviral aHCC (HR: 0.56; 95% CI: 0.40-0.79). While no baseline factor was predictive of a differential OS benefit with ramucirumab, analyses demonstrated an association between high drug exposure, treatment-emergent hypertension (grade ≥3), and increased ramucirumab benefit.
Conclusions: Ramucirumab provided a survival benefit irrespective of baseline prognostic covariates, and this benefit was greatest in patients with high ramucirumab drug exposure and/or those with treatment-related hypertension.