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Adverse events affect sorafenib efficacy in patients with recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma after liver transplantation: experience at a single center and review of the literature

Zavaglia, Claudio; Airoldi, Aldo; Mancuso, Andrea; Vangeli, Marcello; Viganò, Raffaella; Cordone, Gabriella; Gentiluomo, Maria; Belli, Luca Saverio

European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: February 2013 - Volume 25 - Issue 2 - p 180–186
doi: 10.1097/MEG.0b013e328359e550
Original Articles: Hepato-cellular Carcinoma

Aims The aim of this study was to assess the safety and efficacy of sorafenib, with or without everolimus, in the treatment of recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) after an orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT).

Methods We reviewed the outcome of our consecutive cohort series of patients. Eleven patients (nine men) with recurrent HCC after OLT were treated. Four patients received cyclosporine plus sorafenib at a starting dose of 400 mg twice daily; seven received the combination of sorafenib (same dosage) and everolimus. Sorafenib was reduced or stopped according to the drug label.

Results The median time to recurrence was 12 months (range 2–66). The mean age at the start of treatment was 57±9 years. Sorafenib was withdrawn because of intolerance or side-effects in four (36%) patients. Dose reduction because of adverse events or intolerance was required in 91% of patients after 26±11 days from the start of treatment. The average length of treatment was 68 days (range 15–444). One patient died because of a massive gastrointestinal bleeding while receiving sorafenib and everolimus. The most frequent adverse events were fatigue (54%), skin toxicity (45%), and hypophosphatemia (36%). Two patients (18%) showed a radiological partial response, one (9%) had a stable disease, and six (54%) showed a progressive disease. None of the patients achieved a complete response. Treatment response could not be assessed in two (18%) patients. The overall median survival since the start of treatment was 5 months. One-year survival was 18%.

Conclusion Sorafenib, with or without mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitors, is poorly tolerated and rarely effective in the treatment of recurrent HCC after OLT.

Hepatology & Gastroenterology Department ‘Crespi’, Niguarda Hospital, Milan, Italy

Correspondence to Claudio Zavaglia, MD, Hepatology & Gastroenterology Department ‘Crespi’, Niguarda Hospital, Piazza Ospedale Maggiore 3, 20162 Milano, Italy Tel: +39 02 64444617; fax: +39 02 64444891; e-mail:

Received June 11, 2012

Accepted August 30, 2012

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.