Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) related to alcohol use tends to be diagnosed at a later stage than HCC from other causes, which contributes to reduced overall survival among patients with alcoholic HCC, investigators in a prospective French study said.

Among 894 patients diagnosed with HCC, the adjusted median overall survival was 5.7 months for those with alcoholic HCC, compared with 9.7 months for those with nonalcoholic HCC (P = .0002), reported Charlotte E. Costentin, MD, of the Hopital Henri Mondor in Creteil, France, and colleagues.

“Various assumptions can be made to explain why patients with alcohol-related HCC have reduced survival in comparison with patients with non–alcohol-related HCC: a diagnosis at a later stage due to lower rates of HCC screening, worse liver function and/or ongoing alcohol consumption preventing curative options, and discrimination against alcoholic patients leading to less aggressive treatment options,” they wrote in a study published online in Cancer .

The investigators looked at data on clinical features and treatment allocation of patients in the CHANGH cohort (cohorte de Carcinomes Hepatocelulaires de l’Association des hepato-Gastroenterologues des Hopitaux Generaux), a prospective, observational cohort study.

Of 1,207 patients with complete data, 582 had isolated alcohol-related HCC, and 312 had non–alcohol-related HCC, which was caused by either nonalcoholic fatty liver, hepatitis C infections, hepatitis B infections, hemochromatosis, or other etiologies.

As noted before, the median overall survival adjusted for lead-time bias (the length of time between the detection of a disease and its usual diagnosis) was significantly shorter for patients with alcohol-related HCC.

In univariate analysis, alcohol-related HCC, compared with non–alcohol-related HCC, was an independent risk factor for worse overall survival (hazard ratio, 1.39; P = .0002).

Among patients in the alcohol-related HCC group, median overall survival adjusted for lead-time was 5.8 months for patients who had been abstinent for a median of 1 year, compared with 5.0 months for the nonabstinent patients, a difference that was not statistically significant.

In multivariate analysis, factors significantly associated with worse overall survival included advanced HCC at diagnosis (diffuse or metastatic HCC and/or macrovascular invasion), alkaline phosphatase score, alpha-fetoprotein levels, creatinine, performance status, Child-Pugh score, age plus alcohol-related disease, and male sex plus alcohol-related disease. However, alcohol-related versus non–alcohol-related HCC was no longer statistically significant in multivariate analysis.

They noted that for 199 patients who were diagnosed with HCC as part of a cirrhosis follow-up program, the median overall survival adjusted for lead-time was 11.7 months, compared with 5.4 months for patients whose HCC was detected incidentally (P less than .0001).

The investigators noted that other studies have shown that screening rates for HCC are lower in alcohol abusers and that the most common reason for a lack of screening was failure of clinician to order surveillance in patients with known cirrhosis. In addition, alcoholic patients are less likely to be compliant with screening.

“Importantly, Bucci et al ( Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2016 Feb;43[3]:385-99 ) observed similar survival between alcoholic patients and patients with hepatitis C virus among patients undergoing HCC surveillance according to guidelines. The poorer prognosis of alcohol-related HCC is, therefore, very likely to be related to an advanced stage at diagnosis due to screening failure instead of greater cancer aggressiveness,” they wrote.

“To improve prognosis of liver cancer in the alcoholic population, efforts should be made to implement effective screening programs for both cirrhosis and liver cancer and to improve access to alcoholism treatment services,” Dr. Costentin said in press release. “A smaller tumor burden and a better liver function at diagnosis should translate into higher rates of patients with alcohol-related liver cancer amenable to curative treatment such as tumor resection or ablation and liver transplantation.”

Dr. Costentin did not report conflicts of interest. Several of her coauthors reported personal fees from various companies outside the submitted work.

SOURCE: Costentin CE at al. Cancer. doi: 10.1002/cncr.31215.


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