Second-line treatments for Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma: A Systematic Review and Bayesian Network Meta-analysis

Antonio Giovanni Solimando, Nicola Susca, Antonella Argentiero, Oronzo Brunetti, Patrizia Leone, Valli De Re, Rossella Fasano, Markus Krebs, Elisabetta Petracci, Irene Azzali, Oriana Nanni, Nicola Silvestris, Angelo Vacca, Vito Racanelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND & AIMS: A plethora of second-line therapies have been recently introduced for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) treatment with promising results. A meta-analysis of second-line treatments for HCC has been performed to better tailor their use based on improved patient stratification and to identify the best available option.

METHODS: Pubmed, Scopus, Web of Science, and were searched for randomized controlled trials evaluating second-line treatment for advanced HCC in patients already treated with sorafenib. The primary outcome was overall survival (OS). Secondary outcomes were progression-free survival (PFS) and drug withdrawal due to adverse events. Network meta-analyses were performed considering placebo as the basis for comparison in efficacy and safety analyses. Subgroup stratification considered gender, age, sorafenib-responsiveness and drug tolerability, viral infection, macrovascular invasion, HCC extrahepatic spread, performance status, and alpha-fetoprotein levels.

RESULTS: Fourteen phase II or III randomized controlled trials, involving 5,488 patients and 12 regimens, were included in the analysis. Regorafenib (hazard ratio (HR) = 0.63, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.50-0.79), cabozantinib (HR = 0.76, 95% CI = 0.63-0.92), and ramucirumab (HR = 0.82, 95% CI = 0.70-0.76) significantly prolonged OS compared with placebo. Cabozantinib (HR = 0.44, 95% CI = 0.36-0.52), regorafenib (HR = 0.46, 95% CI = 0.37-0.56), ramucirumab (HR = 0.54, 95% CI = 0.43-0.68), brivanib (HR = 0.56, 95% CI = 0.42-0.76), S-1 (HR = 0.60, 95% CI = 0.46-0.77), axitinib (HR = 0.62, 95% CI = 0.44-0.87), and pembrolizumab (HR = 0.72, 95% CI = 0.57-0.90) significantly improved PFS compared with placebo. None of the compared drugs deemed undoubtedly superior after having performed a patients' stratification.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this network meta-analysis suggest the use of regorafenib and cabozantinib as second-line treatments in HCC.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical and Experimental Medicine
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jun 19 2021


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