1 Department of Digestive Oncology, Hôpital Beaujon, APHP Hôpitaux Universitaires Paris Nord Val de Seine, Clichy, France.
2 UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco, California, USA.
3 Department of Medical Oncology, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, District of Columbia, USA.
4 Department of Radiology, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, District of Columbia, USA.
5 Liver Unit, Hôpital Jean Verdier, APHP Hôpitaux Universitaires Paris Seine-Saint-Denis, Paris, France.
6 Centre de Recherche des Cordeliers, Sorbonne Université, Inserm, USPC, Université Paris Descartes, Université Paris Diderot, Université Paris 13, Functional Genomics of Solid Tumors Laboratory, Paris, France.
Patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) have a poor prognosis. First-line sorafenib has been the standard of care for a decade, but the treatment landscape is expanding. This review provides a practical overview of current and future systemic treatment options for advanced HCC and their place in clinical practice.
First-line sorafenib and lenvatinib have shown to improve the survival of patients with advanced HCC. In the second line, regorafenib provides benefit for patients who previously tolerated sorafenib. Anti-PD1 antibodies, nivolumab and pembrolizumab, recently became available for second-line use in the US. Ramucirumab (for patients with α-fetoprotein [AFP] levels ≥400) and cabozantinib present potential future second-line treatment options. Combinations of systemic and locoregional treatment, such as radiofrequency ablation or selective internal radiotherapy, require further research. Precision medicine has not yet been translated into clinical practice, as the most common driver mutations (TERT promoter, CTNNB1, TP53, and ARID1A mutations) have not yet been shown to be suitable therapeutic targets. However, our growing understanding of signaling pathways and efforts in drug development are expected to pave the way for precision medicine in HCC in the future. Evaluating the place for the current and novel systemic treatment options in clinical practice can be challenging due to the diverse toxicity profiles of the treatment options and characteristics of the patient population. Sorafenib data elucidate the effect patient characteristics (such as the performance score, Child-Pugh class, AFP, etiology of the underlying disease, and level of macrovascular invasion and extrahepatic spread) may have on outcomes in advanced stages.
Lenvatinib is expected to join sorafenib as a preferred first-line treatment in advanced HCC. In the second line, the treatment of choice, regorafenib, is soon expected to be accompanied by cabozantinib and ramucirumab in patients with AFP ≥400 ng/mL, whereas nivolumab and pembrolizumab present second-line alternatives in the US.