New Zealand Liver Unit, Auckland District Health Board, Auckland.
Earlier diagnosis of hepatitis B virus (HBV) related hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) increases treatment options and survival. The aim of this study is to evaluate which factors are associated with late presentation of HBV-related HCC.
This is a retrospective review of all cases of HBV-related HCC diagnosed with late-stage/incurable HCC in New Zealand between 2003 and 2017. Cases were defined as patients with a positive hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), and advanced (not amenable to potentially curable treatments) HCC at initial diagnosis. Patients were categorised into four groups according to potential reasons for late presentation: no previous diagnosis of HBV infection (Group A); known HBV diagnosis but not receiving HCC surveillance (Group B); known HBV diagnosis and receiving suboptimal HCC surveillance (Group C); and known HBV diagnosis and receiving optimised HCC surveillance (Group D).
A total of 368 patients were reviewed. The average age at death was 59 years, and the majority of patients were Māori (39%), Pacific (34%) or Asian (20%). The incidence of patients presenting with HBV-related advanced HCC increased from 4.5 cases to 6.3 cases per million people over the review period. Of the cases, 40% were categorised into Group A, 26% into Group B, 12% into Group C and 23% in Group D. Overall, the median survival was 138 days, and this did not change during the study period. Patients receiving optimised surveillance (Group D) survived longer (mean 469 days) than patients in Group A (90 days), Group B (145 days) or Group C (152 days) (p<0.05). Patients in Group D were more likely to be treated with transarterial chemoembolisation than patients in other groups (40% vs 15%, p<0.05).
This study has highlighted the need for improved rates of HBV diagnosis, better follow-up of those infected and the importance of optimal HCC surveillance. In New Zealand, HBV-related HCC disproportionately affects minority ethnic groups, and given the increasing incidence, provides a potential domain to reduce health inequities.