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Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2008 Jul;37(7):554-8.

Phase II trial of gemcitabine in combination with cisplatin in inoperable or advanced hepatocellular carcinoma.

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  • 1Department of Medical Oncology, National Cancer Centre, Singapore.



Advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has a dismal prognosis and is notoriously chemo-resistant. We conducted a Phase II prospective study to evaluate the activity and tolerability of gemcitabine and cisplatin in chemo-naïve advanced hepatocellular carcinoma. The trial considered a "no further interest" response rate of 10% and a target response rate of 30%. Utilising a Simon's minimax two-stage design with a type I error of 0.05 and power of 80%, 25 subjects would be required. Fifteen patients would be needed in stage 1 and if fewer than 2 responses were observed, the trial would be stopped and lack of efficacy claimed.


Patients with advanced HCC, diagnosed based on histology or by World Health Organization (WHO) criteria, were administered gemcitabine 1000 mg/m2 and cisplatin 25 mg/m2 on day 1 and day 8 of a 21-day schedule. Assessment of response based on computer tomography was performed after every 2 cycles of chemotherapy.


The trial was stopped early due to a lack of efficacy. A total of 15 patients were accrued. Twelve patients were hepatitis B positive and the other 3 patients were negative for both hepatitis B and C. Only 1 patient had a history of prior heavy alcohol use. Two patients had Child C liver cirrhosis, 5 patients had Child B cirrhosis, and the remaining 8 patients had Child A cirrhosis. This regime was well tolerated and there was only 1 patient who experienced grade IV toxicities. Only 5 of 15 patients experienced grade III toxicities (nausea and emesis, 1 patient; anemia, 1 patient; thrombocytopenia, 1 patient; and neutropaenia, 2 patients). Only 1 patient experienced a partial response to the combination of gemcitabine and cisplatin. A further 3 patients experienced stable disease and 11 patients progressed on chemotherapy. The median time to progression was 6 weeks. The progression-free curve showed a sharp descent in the initial part of the study, suggesting that many patients had disease progression after enrollment. The median overall survival was 18 weeks.


The progression-free survival and overall survival in our study were extremely short. Based on the results of our phase 2 study, we are unable to recommend further studies utilising gemcitabine and cisplatin combination in patients with advanced HCC.

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