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Original article
Stratification of hepatocellular carcinoma risk in primary biliary cirrhosis: a multicentre international study

Abstract

Objective Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an infrequent yet critical event in primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC); however, predictive tools remain ill-defined. Our objective was to identify candidate risk factors for HCC development in patients with PBC.

Design Risk factor analysis was performed in over 15 centres from North America and Europe spanning >40 years observation period using Cox proportional hazards assumptions, logistic regression, and Kaplan-Meier estimates.

Results Of 4565 patients with PBC 123 developed HCC, yielding an incidence rate (IR) of 3.4 cases/1000 patient-years. HCC was significantly more common in men (p<0.0001), and on univariate analysis factors at PBC diagnosis associated with future HCC development were male sex (unadjusted HR 2.91, p<0.0001), elevated serum aspartate transaminase (HR 1.24, p<0.0001), advanced disease (HR 2.72, p=0.022), thrombocytopenia (HR 1.65, p<0.0001), and hepatic decompensation (HR 9.89, p<0.0001). As such, non-treatment with ursodeoxycholic acid itself was not associated with cancer development; however, 12-month stratification by biochemical non-response (Paris-I criteria) associated significantly with future risk of HCC (HR 4.52, p<0.0001; IR 6.6 vs 1.4, p<0.0001). Non-response predicted future risk in patients with early stage disease (IR 4.7 vs 1.2, p=0.005), advanced disease (HR 2.79, p=0.02; IR 11.2 vs 4.4, p=0.033), and when restricting the analysis to only male patients (HR 4.44, p<0.001; IR 18.2 vs 5.4, p<0.001). On multivariable analysis biochemical non-response remained the most significant factor predictive of future HCC risk (adjusted HR 3.44, p<0.0001).

Conclusions This uniquely powered, internationally representative cohort robustly demonstrates that 12-month biochemical non-response is associated with increased future risk of developing HCC in PBC. Such risk stratification is relevant to patient care and development of new therapies.

  • AUTOIMMUNE LIVER DISEASE
  • PRIMARY BILIARY CIRRHOSIS
  • CHOLESTATIC LIVER DISEASES

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