Roongruedee Chaiteerakij, Piyanat Chattieng, Jonggi Choi, Nutcha Pinchareon, Kessirin Thanapirom, Nopavut Geratikornsupuk
Background. Evidence supporting benefit of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) surveillance in reducing mortality is not well-established. The effect of HCC surveillance in reducing mortality was assessed by an inverse probability of treatment weighting (IPTW)-based analysis controlled for inherent bias and confounders in observational studies. Material and methods. This retrospective cohort study was conducted on 446 patients diagnosed with HCC between 2007 and 2013 at a major referral center. Surveillance was defined as having at least 1 ultrasound test within a year before HCC diagnosis. Primary outcome was survival estimated using the Kaplan-Meier method with lead-time bias adjustment and compared using the log-rank test. Hazard ratio (HR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) were computed using conventional Cox and weighted Cox proportional hazards analysis with IPTW adjustment. Results. Of the 446 patients, 103 (23.1%) were diagnosed with HCC through surveillance. The surveillance group had more patients with the Barcelona-Clinic Liver Cancer stage A (80.6% vs. 33.8%, P < 0.0001), more patients eligible for potentially curative treatment (73.8% vs. 44.9%, P < 0.0001), and longer median survival (49.6 vs. 15.9 months, P < 0.0001). By conventional multivariate Cox analysis, HR (95% CI) of surveillance was 0.63 (0.45-0.87), P = 0.005. The estimated effect of surveillance remained similar in the IPTW-adjusted Cox analysis (HR: 0.57; 95% CI: 0.43-0.76, P < 0.001). Conclusions. HCC surveillance by ultrasound is associated with a 37% reduction in mortality. Even though surveillance is recommended in all guidelines, but in practice, it is underutilized. Interventions are needed to increase surveillance rate for improving HCC outcome.
Key words. Cancer screening, Alpha-fetoprotein, Cirrhosis, Lead-time bias