Purpose: In order to determine the effect of additional radiotherapy (RT) after an incomplete transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) in an unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the treatment results of patients receiving TACE plus RT were analyzed and compared with those treated with TACE alone. Materials and methods: One hundred and five patients with an unresectable HCC were treated with TACE from January 1992 to December 2002. In 73 of these patients, the TACE was incomplete. Among them, TACE was repeatedly performed in 35 patients (TACE group), and the remaining 38 patients were also treated with local RT (TACERT group). The patients were either in stage III or IVa, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group 2 or less, and Child-Pugh class A or B. The average frequency of TACE prior to RT was 2 and the RT was started within 7-10 days after the TACE. Results: The 2-year survival rate was significantly higher in the TACERT than in the TACE group (36.8% vs. 14.3%, P = 0.001). According to the tumor size, the 2-year survival rates in the TACERT and TACE groups were 63% vs. 42% in 5-7 cm (P = 0.22), 50% vs. 0% in 8-10 cm (P = 0.03), and 17% vs. 0% in larger than 10 cm (P = 0.0002) respectively. Conclusion: There was a significantly improved survival rate in the TACERT group of unresectable HCC patients than in the TACE group, particularly in case of tumors ≥ 8 cm in diameter. Therefore, RT in addition to TACE is strongly recommended for patients with an unresectable HCC.
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