Targeted agents for second-line treatment of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Over the past ten years, sorafenib, a multikinase inhibitor, has been the standard of care for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and well-preserved liver function. Recently, lenvatinib, a different multikinase inhibitor, was shown to be non-inferior to sorafenib, in terms of survival, while all other agents previously tested failed to prove non-inferiority (or superiority) when compared to sorafenib. Similarly, in the second-line setting, most investigational drugs failed to provide better survival outcomes than placebo. However, in the last 2 years three positive phase III trials have been published in this setting. The RESORCE trial, a phase III study evaluating regorafenib in HCC patients who experienced disease progression after first-line treatment with sorafenib, showed better outcomes with regorafenib compared to placebo. More recently, the phase III CELESTIAL trial demonstrated the superiority of cabozantinib, a multikinase inhibitor targeting vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, MET, and AXL, vs placebo in the second- and third-line setting in patients progressing on or intolerant to sorafenib. The survival benefits of a sustained anti-angiogenic inhibition were demonstrated also with ramucirumab in the phase III REACH-2 trial in patients previously treated with sorafenib and who had high baseline alpha-fetoprotein levels. Overall, the adverse events reported in these trials were in line with the known safety profiles of the tested agents. After nearly a decade of a certain degree of stagnation, we are now witnessing a period of novel therapeutic advances with multikinase inhibitors and monoclonal antibodies that will likely change the treatment scenario of HCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)788-803
Number of pages16
JournalWorld Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 15 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'Targeted agents for second-line treatment of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this