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      Patterns of treatment and costs of intermediate and advanced hepatocellular carcinoma management in four Italian centers

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          Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a severe health condition associated with high hospitalizations and mortality rates, which also imposes a relevant economic burden.


          The aim of the present survey is to investigate treatment strategies and related costs for HCC in the intermediate and advanced stages of the disease.

          Patients and methods

          The survey was conducted in four Italian centers through structured interviews with physicians. Information regarding the stage of disease, treatments performed, and related health care resource consumption was included in the questionnaire. Direct health care cost per patient associated with the most relevant treatments such as sorafenib, transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), and transarterial radioembolization (TARE) was evaluated.


          Between 2013 and 2014, 285 patients with HCC were treated in the four participating centers; of these, 80 were in intermediate stage HCC (Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer Classification [BCLC] B), and 57 were in the advanced stage of the disease (BCLC C). In intermediate stage HCC, the most frequent first-line treatment was TACE (63%) followed by sorafenib (15%), radiofrequency ablation (14%), and TARE (1.3%). In the advanced stage of HCC, the most frequently used first-line therapy was sorafenib (56%), followed by best supportive care (21%), TACE (18%), and TARE (3.5%). The total costs of treatment per patient amounted to €12,214.54 with sorafenib, €13,418.49 with TACE, and €26,106.08 with TARE. Both in the intermediate and in the advanced stage of the disease, variability in treatment patterns among centers was observed.


          The present analysis raises for the first time the awareness of the overall costs incurred by the Italian National Healthcare System for different treatments used in intermediate and advanced HCC. Further investigations would be important to better understand the effective health care resource usage.

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          Most cited references 33

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          Rising incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma in the United States.

          Clinical observations have suggested that the number of cases of hepatocellular carcinoma has increased in the United States. We analyzed data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data base to determine the age-adjusted incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma from 1976 to 1995, data from the U.S. vital-statistics data base to determine age-adjusted mortality rates from 1981 to 1995, and data from the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine age-adjusted rates of hospitalization for the disease from 1983 to 1997. The incidence of histologically proved hepatocellular carcinoma increased from 1.4 per 100,000 population (95 percent confidence interval, 1.3 to 1.4) for the period from 1976 to 1980 to 2.4 per 100,000 (95 percent confidence interval, 2.3 to 2.4) for the period from 1991 to 1995. Among black men, the incidence was 6.1 per 100,000 for the period from 1991 to 1995, and among white men, it was 2.8 per 100,000. There was a 41 percent increase in the mortality rate from primary liver cancer and a 46 percent increase in the proportion of hospitalizations attributable to this disease during the periods studied. The incidence increased significantly among younger persons (40 to 60 years old) during the period from 1991 to 1995 as compared with earlier periods. An increase in the number of cases of hepatocellular carcinoma has occurred in the United States over the past two decades. The age-specific incidence of this cancer has progressively shifted toward younger people.
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            Molecular targeted therapies in hepatocellular carcinoma.

            Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a complex and heterogeneous tumor with several genomic alterations. There is evidence of aberrant activation of several signaling cascades such as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), Ras/extracellular signal-regulated kinase, phosphoinositol 3-kinase/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), hepatocyte growth factor/mesenchymal-epithelial transition factor, Wnt, Hedgehog, and apoptotic signaling. Recently a multikinase inhibitor, sorafenib, has shown survival benefits in patients with advanced HCC. This advancement represents a breakthrough in the treatment of this complex disease and proves that molecular therapies can be effective in HCC. It is becoming apparent, however, that to overcome the complexity of genomic aberrations in HCC, combination therapies will be critical. Phase II studies have tested drugs blocking EGFR, vascular endothelial growth factor/platelet-derived growth factor receptor, and mTOR signaling. No relevant data has been produced so far in combination therapies. Future research is expected to identify new compounds to block important undruggable pathways, such as Wnt signaling, and to identify new oncogenes as targets for therapies through novel high-throughput technologies. Recent guidelines have established a new frame for the design of clinical trials in HCC. Randomized phase II trials with a time-to-progression endpoint are proposed as pivotal for capturing benefits from novel drugs. Survival remains the main endpoint to measure effectiveness in phase III studies. Patients assigned to the control arm should receive standard-of-care therapy, that is, chemoembolization for patients with intermediate-stage disease and sorafenib for patients with advanced-stage disease. Biomarkers and molecular imaging should be part of the trials, in order to optimize the enrichment of study populations and identify drug responders. Ultimately, a molecular classification of HCC based on genome-wide investigations and identification of patient subclasses according to drug responsiveness will lead to a more personalized medicine.
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              Natural history of untreated nonsurgical hepatocellular carcinoma: rationale for the design and evaluation of therapeutic trials.

              This study analyzed the natural history and prognostic factors of patients with nonsurgical hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Twenty variables from 102 cirrhotic patients with HCC who were not treated within prospective randomized controlled trials (RCT) were investigated through uni- and multivariate analyses. None of them was suitable for radical therapies (surgical resection, liver transplantation, or ethanol injection) or presented end-stage disease as reflected by an Okuda stage 3 or a Performance Status >/=3. Sixty-five patients were Child-Pugh A, 34 were B, and 3 were C. Most of them exhibited a preserved Performance Status Test (PST) (0 = 56; 1 = 38; 2 = 8). Tumor was solitary in 26 (

                Author and article information

                Ther Clin Risk Manag
                Ther Clin Risk Manag
                Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management
                Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management
                Dove Medical Press
                19 October 2015
                : 11
                : 1603-1612
                [1 ]Department of Drug Sciences, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy
                [2 ]Section of Gastroenterology, Di.Bi.M.I.S., University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy
                [3 ]Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Rome (La Sapienza) Rome, Italy
                [4 ]Clinical Medicine Division, Ospedale Brotzu, Cagliari, Italy
                [5 ]Viral Hepatitis Unit, Second University, Naples, Italy
                [6 ]Business Integration Partners S.p.A., Milan, Italy
                [7 ]Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, Italy
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Giorgio L Colombo, Department of Drug Sciences, University of Pavia, Viale Taramelli 12 – 27100 Pavia, Italy, Tel +39 0382 987 370, Fax +39 0382 529 095, Email giorgio.colombo@ 123456unipv.it
                © 2015 Colombo et al. This work is published by Dove Medical Press Limited, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License

                The full terms of the License are available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

                Original Research


                sorafenib, disease costs, transarterial embolization, drugs cost


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