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p53 gene (Gendicine) and embolisation overcame recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma
  1. Y S Guan,
  2. Y Liu,
  3. X P Zhou,
  4. X Li,
  5. Q He,
  6. L Sun
  1. Department of Radiology, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, Sichuang Province, China
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor Y-S Guan
    Department of Radiology, West China Hospital, Sichuan University, 37 Guoxuexiang, Chengdu 610041, Sichuan Province, China;


Transcatheter arterial chemoembolisation (TACE) has become the standard treatment for unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, this method is often unsuccessful. The p53 gene, which is present as a mutant form in many human tumours, is known to have broad spectrum antitumour effects when expressed normally. In this study, we report a 23 year old patient with recurrent HCC who was treated with the p53 gene (Gendicine) combining TACE, which resulted in a good clinical prognosis.

  • TACE, transcatheter arterial chemoembolisation
  • HCC, hepatocellular carcinoma
  • CT, computed tomography
  • VP, virus particles
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • p53 gene
  • transcatheter arterial chemoembolisation

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A 23 year old man with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in the right lobe of the liver was treated with a partial hepatectomy 20 months prior to admission. Five months later, several recurrent nodules were found in the remnant liver following a routine postoperative computed tomography (CT) scan. Because of the multiple hepatic nodules (fig 1), which precluded reoperation, we decided to treat this patient with p53 gene therapy combined with transcatheter arterial chemoembolisation (TACE).

Figure 1

 Contrast computed tomography scan after hepatectomy. Multiple hypodense nodules with circle contrast manifestations were found.

Firstly, we punctured the largest nodule with a fine needle percutaneously under CT guidance, and after the tip of the needle was confirmed within the largest nodule, p53 (Gendicine; Shenzhen Sibiono Gentech, China) was injected intratumorally. The p53 gene was infused via the hepatic artery in our catheter room. A total of 3×1012 virus particles (VP) were administered. Following the procedure, the patient had a moderate fever of 38–38.5°C and no other complications were observed. Four days later we super-selectively embolised the patient’s hepatic arteries with 5-fluorouracil, vinorelbine, and iodised oil.

After an uneventful postoperative 30 day recovery period, CT examination of the abdomen was repeated and the image demonstrated complete deposit of oil and no signs of recurrence were identified (fig 2). Seven months later, the patient had normal liver function and was in good clinical health with alpha-fetoprotein levels falling to normal. No further recurrence has been identified (fig 3).

Figure 2

 Computed tomography 30 days after the combination therapy. The scan revealed homogeneous dense retention of lipiodol within the entire tumoral masses.

Figure 3

 Computed tomography image seven months after treatment revealed that the dense retention of lipiodol in lesions had decreased slightly and there was a circular low density area surrounding the left lobe lesion. No recurrent mass was identified.


TACE has become the standard treatment for unresectable HCC1–4 but the method is often unsuccessful. The p53 gene, which is present as a mutant form in many human tumours, is known to have broad spectrum antitumour effects when expressed normally.

Gendicine (recombinant human ad-p53 injection) obtained a drug license from the State Food and Drug Administration of China (SFDA, Beijing, China) and became the world’s first commercially licensed gene therapy drug. Gendicine consists of advenovirus vectors and normal p53 tumour suppressor gene.

p53 tumour suppressor gene is thought to be responsible for the lack of apoptotic signals in tumour cells and thus for their uncontrolled proliferation and recurrence.5 Many human tumours carry mutations in the p53 gene6,7 and mutant or absent p53 status has been associated with resistance to radiation therapy and to apoptosis inducing chemotherapy.8 In HCC, the incidence of p53 mutation was reported to be 61% (17/28).7

Because of the multiple tumour nodules in liver parenchyma, this patient was not suitable for reoperation and therefore we tried this new gene drug. Three hours after intratumour injection and transcatheter hepatic artery infusion with a total of 3×1012 VP, Gendicine began to express P53 protein in tumour cells and reached a peak post injection on day 3. The P53 protein caused specific antitumour cell effects such as induction of apoptosis or necrosis, enhancement of the body’s immune response, regulation of the cell cycle, etc. We treated the patient with TACE post injection on day 4 in the hope of achieving an optimal therapeutic effect. Thirty days later we used CT to evaluate this therapeutic effect.9 The CT scan images identified complete iodised oil uptake in tumour areas. HCC images that revealed dense retention of lipiodol within the whole tumour or revealed no enhancement on contrast enhanced CT had a significantly higher necrotic rate.9 This patient’s images showed significant tumour necrosis and implied a good prognosis in the long run, which was also suggested by the decrease in alpha fetoprotein levels. Although the CT scan seven months later found that the lipiodol density within the lesions had decreased slightly, this decrease could be attributed to phagocytosis of Kupffer’s cells. The circular low density area adjacent to the lipiodol area in the left lobe suggests that a second combined therapy may be necessary. At present, however, the patient remains well with normal liver function.

HCC is a highly malignant tumour with a very high morbidity and mortality because of its rapid infiltrating growth and complicating liver cirrhosis. Although TACE, as a palliative treatment for HCC, has become one of the most common forms of interventional therapy,1–4 its therapeutic effect is limited by the lack of appropriate and reliable embolic agents, whether the tumour is infiltrative in nature or is hypovascular, and whether the tumour is too large or too small.10–12 Therapeutic efficacy is often to alleviate pain and prolong life. Hence, in this patient, therapeutic efficacy was unique and further observation was necessary.

This case demonstrates that the combination of p53 gene therapy and TACE may be useful in the treatment of patients with HCC in the future, although controlled clinical trials are needed to assess the efficacy of this approach.



  • Conflict of interest: None declared.

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