BMC Cancer

, 15:707 | Cite as

Transarterial injection of recombinant human type-5 adenovirus H101 in combination with transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) improves overall and progressive-free survival in unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)

  • Xiao-jun Lin
  • Qi-jiong Li
  • Xiang-ming Lao
  • Han Yang
  • Sheng-ping Li
Open Access
Research article

Abstract

Background

The aim of this study was to determine the clinical benefit of transhepatic arterial chemoembolization (TACE) with or without recombinant human adenovirus type 5 (H101) administration for the treatment of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Methods

Tumor response, progression-free survival (PFS), and overall survival(OS) were retrospectively evaluated in consecutive patients with unresectable HCC who received TACE with or without H101 between April 2012 and April 2013.

Results

Patients with unresectable HCC were treated with transarterial injection of H101 with TACE (H101 group, n = 87) or TACE alone (control group, n = 88). Clinicopathological features were similar between the groups. Treatment response was significantly different between the groups (P = 0.01). In the H101 group, 25 patients demonstrated a complete response (CR, 28.7 %); 28 patients, a partial response (PR, 32.2 %); 23 patients, stable disease (SD, 26.4 %); and 11 patients, progressive disease (PD, 12.6 %). In the control group, 13 patients demonstrated CR (14.8 %); 19, PR (21.6 %); 34, SD (38.6 %); and 22, PD (25 %). OS and PFS was also significantly different between the groups. In the H101 group, median OS and PFS were 12.8 and 10.49 months, whereas in the control group they were 11.6 and 9.72 months, respectively (OS: P = 0.046; PFS: P = 0.044).

Conclusion

In patients with unresectable HCC, H101 combined with TACE improves OS, PFS and treatment response compared with TACE alone.

Keywords

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) Transhepatic arterial chemoembolization (TACE) H101 Tumor response 

Abbreviations

TACE

Transarterial chemoembolization

HCC

Hepatocellular carcinoma

H101

Recombinant human adenovirus type 5

PFS

Progression-free survival

OS

Overall survival

CR

Complete response

PR

Partial response

SD

Stable disease

PD

Progressive disease

AEs

Adverse events

EASL

European Association for the Study of the Liver

EORTC

European Organization for research and treatment of cancer

CT/MRI

Computed tomography/magnetic resonance imaging

mRECIST

Modified response evaluation criteria in solid tumors

NCI

National cancer institute

CTCAE

Common terminology criteria for adverse events

HBV

hepatitis B virus

BCLC

Barcelona clinic liver cancer

PLT

Platelet count

Background

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide [1]. Less than 20 % of patients with HCC are eligible for potentially curative liver transplantation or surgical resection [2]. Worldwide, transhepatic arterial chemoembolization (TACE) is regarded as the best palliative treatment for unresectable HCC and has been shown to provide a clinical survival benefit [2], albeit with poor prognosis [3] suggesting that additional strategies are needed to improve patient prognosis.

Gene therapy, especially oncolytic viral therapy, is a promising treatment for liver tumors and is being increasingly used in the clinic with favorable results [4]. H101 is a recombinant human type-5 adenovirus (Ad5) in which the gene encoding the 55 kDa E1B protein responsible for p53-binding and inactivation has been deleted to confer p53-selective replication of oncolytic viruses inducing accumulation of p53 leading to direct and selective cytotoxicity in tumor cells during replication [5]. The H101 virus produced by Shanghai Sunway Biotech also contains a deletion of a 78.3–85.8 μm gene segment in the E3 region. The E3 region is responsible for the inhibition of host immunity, which enhances virus replication and spread in tumor cells [6].

Previous studies evaluating the safety of H101 as a direct injection [7] or transarterial infusion combined with TACE [8, 9], but the result were insufficient because of the small patient numbers (10,27,1), moreover, without a control group. While this large sample-sized study has enrolled 87 patients treated by H101 with a control group(n = 88), aimed to demonstrate the effect for unresectable HCCs. In the current study, treatment-related tumor response, overall survival(OS) and progression free survival (PFS) rates between H101 plus TACE and TACE alone were compared as the primary endpoints. The secondary endpoint included an assessment of treatment-related adverse events (AEs).

Methods

Patient selection

This retrospective study was approved by the ethics committee of Sun Yat-Sen University Cancer Center, and was performed in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 1983. From April 2012 to April 2013, 367 consecutive patients with unresectable HCC who underwent TACE, with or without transarterial injection of H101, at the Sun Yat-Sen University Cancer Center were enrolled. The diagnosis of HCC was based on non-invasive criteria according to the recommendation of the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) and the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) [10]. The definition of surgical unresectability was as follows: (1) Child-Pugh classification B; (2) ≥3 tumor nodules of any size; and (3) the inability to ensure adequate function of the postresection liver volume. Eligibility criteria included: (1) no previous treatment for HCC before TACE; (2) adequate hematological function (Child-Pugh A or Child-Pugh B); (3) adequate renal function (serum creatinine < 140 μmol/L, and serum blood urea nitrogen < the upper limit of normal). Exclusion criteria included: (1) previous resection or ablation before TACE, (2) prior bland embolization; and (3) if the patient had received therapy with more than one type of embolic agent or transcatheter therapy. Patients who met the criteria provided written informed consent for the study.

Treatment procedures

For each modality, a uniform treatment protocol was followed. TACE was performed through the femoral artery with use of the Seldinger technique with local anesthesia as previously reported [11]. The chemotherapeutic agents were infused into the hepatic artery supplying the tumor(s). Conventional chemoembolization was performed by administering carboplatin 300 mg (Bristol-Myers Squibb, NY, USA). Thereafter, chemolipiodolization was performed using epirubicin 50 mg (Pharmorubicin, Pfizer, Wuxi, China), and mitomycin 6 mg (Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., Taizhou, China) mixed with 5 mL of lipiodol (Lipiodol Ultra-Fluide; Andre Guerbet Laboratories, France).

H101 was administered via the catheter into the hepatic artery supplying the tumor(s). A total of 1.0 × 1012 virus particles in 10 mL 0.9 % sodium chloride were administered. Sterile purified viral lots were produced for human clinical use by Shanghai Sunway Biotech (Shanghai, China), and tested for the titer, sterility, and general safety by the National Institute for the Control of Pharmaceutical and Biological Products (Beijing, China).

Follow-up

Antitumor efficacy was evaluated by computed tomography/magnetic resonance imaging (CT/MRI) at 1 month post-treatment and every 3–4 months thereafter. Further treatments were based on clinical evaluation, laboratory values, and imaging response. Tumor response according to the modified Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (mRECIST) guidelines [12] was independently assessed in a blinded manner by 3 qualified radiologists. When a difference of opinion occurred, a consensus was obtained through discussion.

Liver function tests, ascites, and encephalopathy were monitored during follow-up visits to assess for liver failure. Clinical AEs were graded according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE) v4.0 criteria [13].

Statistical analysis

The statistical significance of the difference between the means of continuous variables was determined using the independent t-test. A P-value of 0.05 was considered to be statistically significant. The chi-squared test was used to compare categorical variables. The Kaplan–Meier method was used to estimate OS and PFS.

Results

Patient demographics and clinical characteristics were similar between the groups and are shown in Table 1. From April 2012 to April 2013, 187 patients with unresectable HCC were treated with TACE plus H101 met the inclusion criteria (H101 group) (Additional file 1: Figure S1) . In the same period, 88 patients with unresectable HCC underwent conventional TACE alone met the inclusion criteria (control group).
Table 1

Patient demographics and characteristics

 

Overall

H101

Control

P-Value

Overall Survival(%)

Median survival(mo)

Univariate

Multivariate

 

1-yr

2-yr

 

P-Value

ExpB (Hazard Ratio ,95 % CI)

P-Value

Gender

   

0.305

   

0.302

  

 Male

159

81

78

 

67

52

13.0

   

 Female

16

6

10

 

60

30

11.2

   

Age

   

0.948

   

0.100

  

 Median

55.0

55.0

54.5

       

  < 60

114

59

55

 

68

49

12.5

   

  ≥ 60

61

28

33

 

68

56

13.0

   

Alpha-foetoprotein(ng/ml)

   

0.316

      
 

307.2

269.1

307.2

       

Alpha-foetoprotein(ng/ml)

   

0.947

   

0.06

1.669(1.178–2.366)

0.004

  ≤ 20

53(30.1 %)

27(30.7)

26(29.5)

 

89

81

17.6

   

 20–400

42(23.9 %)

20(22.7)

22(25.0)

 

60

45

13.9

   

  ≥ 400

80(45.5 %)

40(45.5)

40(45.5)

 

52

32

9.1

   

Child Pugh grade

   

0.820

   

0.007

2.132(1.138–3.995)

0.018

 A

154(88.0 %)

76(87.3 %)

78(88.6 %)

 

70

55

13.3

   

 B

21(12.0 %)

11(12.6)

10(11.3)

 

38

25

7.7

   

ALB(g/L)

   

0.228

   

0.412

  

 Median

40.0

39.6

40.2

       

  ≥ 35

131

61

70

0.166

62

50

11.7

   

  < 35

44

26

18

 

67

52

13.3

   

Tbil(U/L)

   

0.386

   

0.003

  

 Median

16.4

16.1

16.8

       

  < 20

119

61

58

0.628

75

56

13.7

   

  ≥ 20

56

26

30

 

48

40

8.0

   

Virus infection

   

0.970

   

0.101

  

 none

15

7

8

 

88

66

13.6

   

 HBV

158

79

79

 

63

51

12.6

   

 HCV

2

1

1

 

50

0

13.9

   

Platelet count (10E9/L)

   

0.630

   

0.676

  

 Median

167.0

179.2

154.5

       

  < 100

31

11

20

0.112

63

46

12.2

 

0.330(0.141–0.773)

0.011

  ≥ 100

144

76

68

 

67

53

12.8

   

No. of tumours

   

1.000

   

<0.001

2.024(1.127–3.633)

0.018

  ≤ 3

127

69

70

 

74

57

13.7

   

  > 3

36

18

18

 

38

30

7.6

   

Tumour size (cm)

   

0.730

   

0.028

2.936(1.297–6.650)

0.010

  ≤ 5

45

21

24

 

91

75

18.1

   

  > 5

130

66

64

 

56

42

9.8

   

Anti-HBV therapy

   

0.197

   

0.424

  

 Yes

56

32

24

 

60

54

13.3

   

 No

119

55

64

 

69

51

9.65

   

H101

   

0.046

   

0.042

0.593(0.353–0.995)

0.048

 Yes

87

87

0

 

69

60

12.8

   

 No

88

0

88

 

60

44

11.6

   

 BCLC stage

   

0.453

   

0.001

2.168(1.322–3.557)

0.002

 A3

1

0

1

       

 A4

17

10

7

 

94

94

17.0

   

 B

108

50

58

 

72

56

12.96

   

 C

49

27

22

 

52

23

6.96

   

AFP alpha fetoprotein, ALB serum albumin, HBV hepatitis B virus, HCV hepatitis C virus, TBIL total bilirubin, PVT portal vein thrombosis

Tumor response is shown in Table 2 significant difference was noted in tumor response between the two groups (Table 2). Furthermore, subgroup analysis according to treatment response showed that the number of each response type was significantly different between the groups (Table 2). In general, patients in the H101 group responded better to treatment compared with those who received TACE alone.
Table 2

Treatment response of H101 group and control group

 

Overall

H101(none + Anti-HBV Therapy,P = 0.162)

Control

P value

    

0.010

CR

38(21.7 %)

25 (28.7 %)(16 + 9)

13(14.8 %)

0.017

PR

47(26.9 %)

28(32.2 %)(21 + 7)

19(21.6 %)

0.172

SD

57(32.6 %)

23(26.4 %)(14 + 9)

34(38.6 %)

0.107

PD

33(18.9 %)

11(12.6 %)(4 + 7)

22(25 %)

0.011

All patients enrolled in H101 group were screened to sort out cases with anti-HBV therapy or without anti-HBV therapy.

None: Patients treated by H101 without anti-HBV therapy.

Anti-HBV Therapy: Patients treated by H101 with anti-HBV therapy session.

The majority of the patients (90.2 %) tested positive for hepatitis B virus (HBV) and some patients received anti-HBV agents that could potentially confound the beneficial effects of H101 as antiviral agents. To determine the effect of anti-HBV treatment on H101, patients were stratified by anti-HBV therapy administration. As shown in Table 2B, there was no significant difference in treatment response between the two subgroups.

Significant positive correlations have been reported between lipiodol accumulation observed on CT images and necrosis in resected tumors examined after TACE, and, therefore, intratumor lipiodol accumulation is regarded as an indicator of necrosis [14, 15]. The degree of lipiodol retention for all patients is presented in Table 3. There were significant differences in lipiodol accumulation between the two treatment groups (P = 0.002).
Table 3

Tumor response

 

Overall

H101

Control

P value

Alpha-fetoprotein(ng/ml) reduce

   

0.448

  ≥ 20 %

77

41

36

 

  < 20 %

98

46

52

 

Lipiodol retention

   

0.002

 None

20

7

13

 

 Partial

132

61

71

 

 Complete

23

19

4

 

CR complete response, PR partial response, SD stable disease, PD progressive disease

Blood samples for laboratory analysis were collected before and 1–2 days after TACE for each patient (Table 4). There were no significant differences in clinical parameters between the two groups with the exception of a significant increase in white blood cell count in the H101 group compared with the control group (P = 0.001). Post-treatment AEs are shown in Table 4 Fever was significantly higher in the H101 group compared with the control group (P = 0.023). No grade 4 clinical toxicity or procedure-related deaths (30 days) due to liver failure were experienced in either group. There were no major complications or grade 3–4 liver toxicities within the first post-treatment month. The overall frequency of treatment-emergent AEs was not significantly different between the groups (P = 0.263).
Table 4

Clinical adverse effects

 

Overall

H101

Control

P value

Fever

   

0.023

  > 38.5 °C

55.4 %

64.4 %

46.6 %

 

  ≤ 38.5 °C

44.6 %

35.6 %

53.4 %

 

Pain

   

0.875

 Yes

65.1 %

64.4 %

65.9 %

 

 No

34.9 %

35.6 %

34.1 %

 

Ascites

   

0.864

 Yes

25.7 %

26.4 %

25 %

 

 No

74.3 %

73.6 %

75 %

 

Acute renal failure

    

 Yes

5.1 %

5.7 %

4.5 %

0.896

 No

94.9 %

94.3 %

95.5 %

 

Encephalopathy

    

 Yes

0

0

0

 

 No

100 %

100 %

100 %

 

White Blood Cell

    

 Before TACE

5.7

6.0

5.5

0.369

 After TACE

7.64

7.0

8.84

0.991

 Elevation

1.61

0.5

2.97

0.001

PLT

    

 Before

167.0

179.2

154.5

0.186

 After

113.0

122.8

106.1

0.258

 Elevation

49.0

52.7

48.4

0.480

ALT

    

 Before

41.5

43.2

41.4

0.371

 After

167.1

153.0

200.9

0.405

 Elevation

103.1

88.1

118.4

0.480

AST

    

 Before

50.9

57.1

46.4

0.249

 After

221.3

225.4

213.5

0.993

 Elevation

154.2

141.2

162.0

0.863

TBIL

    

 Before

16.3

16.1

16.8

0.657

 After

30.4

28.3

31.8

0.162

 Elevation

12.9

12.4

13.25

0.413

ALB

    

 Before

40.0

38.2

41.2

0.161

 After

35.4

34.1

37.0

0.314

 Elevation

4.1

3.6

4.4

0.226

PLT platelet count, ALB albumin, ALT alanine aminotransferase, AST aspartate aminotransferase, PLT platelet, TACE transhepatic arterial chemoembolization, TBIL total bilirubin

The median OS time during follow-up was 12.8 months (mean ± SD: 12.95 ± 8.36 months) in the H101 group and 11.6 months (mean ± SD: 12.87 ± 8.28 months) in the control group. 24 patients (27.6 %) in the H101 group and 41 (46.6 %) in the control group expired. The causes of death included liver disease progression (46/65, 70.8 %), upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage (7/65, 10.8 %), encephalopathy (7/65, 10.8 %), and peritonitis and pneumonia (6/65, 9.2 %). There were no treatment-related deaths. The cumulative OS rates at 1 and 2 years were significantly different and were 69 and 60 % in the H101 group, respectively, 60 and 44 % in the control group, respectively (P = 0.046, Fig. 1). Univariate analysis by Cox-regression revealed 6 prognostic factors affecting OS: Child-Pugh grade (grade A vs. grade B, P = 0.007), total bilirubin (<20 vs. ≥20 U/L, P = 0.003), BCLC(Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer )stage (P = 0.001), tumor number (≤3 vs. >3, P < 0.001), tumor size (≤5 cm vs. >5 cm, P = 0.028), and H101 (P = 0.042). Multivariate analysis by cox-regression revealed that AFP (P = 0.004), CHILD PUGH grade (P = 0.018), BCLC stage(P = 0.002), Platelet count (PLT)(P = 0.011), the number of tumors (P = 0.018), tumor size(P = 0.010)and H101 (P = 0.048) were independent prognostic factors of OS.

After the first post-treatment review, all 175 patients were assigned as CR, PR, SD, or PD according to mRECIST criteria. In total, 142 patients in both groups (H101: 74; control: 68) were judged as CR, PR, or SD. During follow-up, progression free survival was observed in these 142 patients. The median time to progression for the H101 and control groups were significantly different at 10.49 and 9.72 months, respectively (P = 0.044, Fig. 2).
Fig. 1

The Kaplan–Meier survival analysis comparing the overall survival from the first transcatheter therapy of advanced stage HCC patients who underwent TACE combined with H101 (H101 group, n = 87) and TACE alone (control group, n = 88).

Fig. 2

The Kaplan–Meier survival analysis for progression-free survival of the 74 patients with unresectable HCC who underwent TACE combined with H101 and the 68 patients with unresectable HCC who underwent TACE alone.

In univariate analysis by cox-regression, 3 prognostic factors affecting tumor progression were identified: tumor number (P = 0.002), tumor size (P = 0.041), and treatment modality (H101; P = 0.036; Table 5). Multivariate analysis identified 4 prognostic factors as independent predictors of progression: the number of tumors (P = 0.001), tumor size (P = 0.041), Child-Pugh grade (P = 0.050) and treatment modality (H101) (P = 0.017, Table 5).
Table 5

Univariate and Multivariate analysis of PFS

 

Cases

   

Univariate

Multivariate

  

1-yr survival rate(%)

2-yr survival rate(%)

Median survival(mo)

P-Value

ExpB (Hazard Ratio ,95 % CI)

P-Value

Gender

       

 Male

130

47

26

10.79

0.331

  

 Female

12

37

0

6.11

   

Age

       

  < 60

92

49

29

10.49

0.180

  

  ≥ 60

50

40

21

9.35

   

Alpha-foetoprotein(ng/ml)

       

  ≤ 20

42

50

44

11.99

0.445

  

 20–400

37

35

8

7.03

   

  ≥ 400

63

51

28

8.37

   

Child Pugh grade

    

0.047

2.852(1.002–8.293)

0.050

 A

133

48

28

10.56

   

 B

9

22

0

7.07

   

ALB(g/L)

    

0.307

  

  ≥ 35

108

46

20

10.49

   

  < 35

34

47

47

10.25

   

Tbil(U/L)

    

0.429

  

  < 20

104

49

23

11.18

   

  ≥ 20

38

37

32

6.21

   

Platelet count (10E9/L)

       

  < 100

19

74

32

13.57

0.144

  

  ≥ 100

123

42

25

9.83

   

No. of tumours

    

0.034

3.992(1.978–8.057)

0.001

  ≤ 3

118

51

28

11.04

   

  > 3

24

21

14

7.6

   

Tumour size (cm)

    

0.988

2.667(1.041–6.832)

0.041

  ≤ 5

35

39

24

11.37

   

  > 5

107

48

25

8.37

   

Virus infection

    

0.079

  

 none

14

59

59

13.05

   

 HBV

126

43

24

10.25

   

 HCV

2

50

0

11.30

   

Anti-virus therapy

    

0.951

  

 Yes

33

44

30

8.37

   

 No

95

43

22

10.56

   

H101

    

0.051

0.461(0.244–0.870)

0.017

 Yes

74

51

32

10.49

   

 No

68

41

20

9.72

   

Discussion

The main purpose of this study was to compare the outcomes of patients with late stage HCC treated with two different methods of chemoembolization: a conventional method with commonly used protocols, and one using H101 virus. The data revealed that transcatheter therapy with H101 provided a significant tumor response and survival advantage over treatment with conventional chemoembolization (TACE alone) in patients with unresectable HCC.

H101 is an E1B-55 K-/E3B-deleted adenovirus [16], which has been used as an anticancer agent with the goal of restricting replication to p53-mutated neoplasm, sparing p53 wild-type human tissues. Preclinical studies have confirmed the anticancer activity of the H101 virus [17]. Clinical studies demonstrated the tolerability and anti-tumor efficacy of this agent as a monotherapy in patients with head and neck cancer [18, 19]. Different studies have compared the efficacy and safety of multiple routes of H101 administration in patients with HCC or liver tumors including hepatic arterial administration [20, 21],intravenous injection, and ultrasound-guided intratumoral injection [7, 22, 23]. Overall, H101 was safe when administered intratumorally, intraperitoneally, intraarterially, or intravenously at doses up to 3 × 1011 pfu [8, 24].

In this study, a significant difference in response rate was noted between the H101 and control groups. Radiologically, tumor response as determined by mRECIST was shown as obvious volume shrinkage and large areas of necrosis in tumor. The response rate of the control group was similar to that reported in previous studies of our department [25]. In the H101 group, greater improvements were seen especially with regard to CR and PD which may suggest more complete necrosis in the tumor and less lost-control. The mechanism behind the increased efficacy of H101 is not clear but may suggested as follows: 1)H101 is a p53-mutated specific agent, and up to 30–50 % [26] HCCs were found mutated or lost of p53. 2) Pei et al. [27] showed that HCC cells expressed high levels of inhibitor of apoptosis proteins, and were resistant to tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-related apoptosis while E1B-55 K-deleted oncolytic adenovirus showed partial antitumoural efficacy in the BEL7404 xenograft tumour model. 3)H101 has synergistic effect while combined with chemotherapy, and the enhanced antitumor effect was demonstrated in Hep3B (p53-null) and HepG2 (p53-wt) in vitro and in vivo [28].

The OS and PFS rate was significantly different between the two treatment modalities, and results from cox-regression showed H101 were the independent prognostic factor for these late stage HCC patients. These results coordinate with the response advantage of H101, demonstrate the survival advantage for HCCs. However, as generally accepted, beside tumor burden, overall survival in unresectable HCCs is affected by multiple reasons. First, OS in patients with HCC is greatly affected by the degree of liver dysfunction, and patients with Child-Pugh B liver function usually have poor survival regardless of the treatment regimen [29]. In many cases, liver function did not reflect the tumor response and in some patients liver function actually worsened with tumor shrinkage. In this study, most patients had a liver function status graded as Child-Pugh A(88 %), 21 Child-Pugh B cases were nearly even in the two groups(10:11), the bias to overall survival was insignificant. Second, TACE was the initial treatment for these patients, most of whom received subsequent treatments including resection, ablation, repeated TACE, and systemic therapies, or best supportive care. As our previous prospective clinical trial demonstrated, subsequent treatments can influence OS, especially for patients with large and multiple HCC at diagnosis; surgical resection for patients who responded well to TACE significantly prolonged survival, when compared to those who refused surgery [30]. In this study, patients whose tumor was downstaged were offered radical treatment including 36 patients for surgical resection and 29 for local ablation, most of which was CR, PR and some of SD, but without PD patient. These subsequent treatments most likely improved OS, which would enhance the advantage of tumor response.

More than 80 % of patients with HCC in Asia are hepatitis B virus positive, and most are receiving anti-viral therapy [31]. This could confound the results of any evaluation of H101 because it is a recombinant adenovirus and anti-viral therapy has the potential to prevent H101 replication. However, to the best of our knowledge, this has not been previously investigated. The most employed anti-viral agents for hepatitis B in our patients were lamivudine (35.5 %), adefovir dipivoxil (14.7 %), and entecavir (42.3 %). There are no reported studies demonstrating any potential interaction of these agents with adenovirus. Moreover, stratification of our patient data to those receiving anti-viral therapy or not, did not reveal any significant effect of antiviral therapy on H101 efficacy in terms of tumor response or OS and PFS.

Other than efficacy, safety and adverse events are important aspects to consider in patients undergoing viral therapy. The first case of a patient dying as a result of gene therapy was reported in 1999 by Marshall [32]. The patient, a relatively fit 18-year-old male with an inherited enzyme deficiency, received a dose of 4 × 1013 pfu of a replication-deficient adenovirus expressing the ornithine transcarbamylase gene. Less than 24 h later, he experienced hyperammonemia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and suffered multiorgan system failure. He died 4 days later, which questioned the safety of adenovirus for gene therapy [33, 34]. However, subsequent studies have found no mortality associated with adenoviral vector therapy and any complications are usually mild and reversible [8, 35], suggesting that the case reported by Marshall et al., may be a sporadic case of accidental death. In this study, no patients died and all AEs were reversible. The complication rates between H101 group and TACE alone (control) group were similar. Child-Pugh class A and B patients did not experience any major complications after treatment with H101, but did experience liver failure after treatment, but there was no statistically significant difference in liver toxicity at 1–2 months between the treatment groups. Increases in liver enzymes and total bilirubin levels and decreases in serum albumin levels were mild and not significantly different between the treatment groups. However, frequent high fever (P = 0.023) and an increase in the white blood cell count (P = 0.001) were apparent in the H101 group, which might be explained by the immune activation. Previous studies have noted an increase in inflammatory cytokine generation and fever after hepatic arterial infusion of adenovirus [36]. Interestingly, Lu et al., [36] found that during H101 injection, the efficacy was significantly higher in those who had fever than that in those who did not, suggesting that virus infection may activate the host immune system and the elevated cell-mediated immunity may play a role in the tumor regression. In this study, subgroup analysis based on fever did not reveal any differences between fever and treatment efficacy (OS, P = 0.109; PFS, P = 0.221).

This study has several limitations including its retrospective nature. As a case-controlled study, the survival benefit demonstrated must be considered preliminary and further prospective, randomized-controlled, long-term studies are needed to confirm our results.

Conclusion

Transcatheter H101 therapy in combination with TACE for patients with unresectable HCC may provide a survival(OS and PFS) and tumor response advantage over treatment with conventional TACE alone.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank all participants for their support in this study. This study was not supported by funding.

Supplementary material

12885_2015_1715_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Additional file 1: Figure S1. Flow diagram and randomization of study population. (DOCX 15 kb)

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Copyright information

© Lin et al. 2015

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiao-jun Lin
    • 1
  • Qi-jiong Li
    • 1
  • Xiang-ming Lao
    • 1
  • Han Yang
    • 2
  • Sheng-ping Li
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Hepatobiliary OncologySun Yat-Sen University Cancer CenterGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of Thoracic SurgerySun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, State Key Laboratory of Oncology in South ChinaGuangzhou, GuangdongChina

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