Ramucirumab for patients with intermediate-stage hepatocellular carcinoma and elevated alpha-fetoprotein: Pooled results from two phase 3 studies (REACH and REACH-2)

Masatoshi Kudo, Richard S. Finn, Manabu Morimoto, Kun Ming Rau, Masafumi Ikeda, Chia Jui Yen, Peter R. Galle, Josep M. Llovet, Bruno Daniele, Ho Yeong Lim, David W. McIlwain, Reigetsu Yoshikawa, Kenichi Nakamura, Kun Liang, Chunxiao Wang, Paolo Abada, Ryan C. Widau, Andrew X. Zhu

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Background: Intermediate-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), as defined by Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) stage B, is heterogeneous in terms of liver function and tumor burden. REACH and REACH-2 investigated ramucirumab in patients with HCC after prior sorafenib, with REACH-2 enrolling only patients with baseline α-fetoprotein (AFP) ≥400 ng/mL. An exploratory analysis of outcomes by BCLC stage was performed. Methods: A pooled meta-analysis of independent patient data (stratified by study) from REACH (AFP ≥ 400 ng/mL) and REACH-2 was performed. All patients had Child-Pugh A, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status 0-1, prior sorafenib treatment, and either HCC BCLC stage B (refractory/not amenable to locoregional therapy) or BCLC stage C. Patients were randomized to ramucirumab 8 mg/kg or placebo every 2 weeks. Median overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival were estimated by the Kaplan-Meier method. Treatment effects in BCLC stage B and C were evaluated by Cox proportional-hazards model; prognosis of BCLC staging for OS was evaluated by multivariate Cox proportional-hazards model. Tumor responses were evaluated according to Response Evaluation in Solid Tumors v1.1. Liver function was assessed with albumin-bilirubin score. Results: Baseline characteristics were generally balanced between treatment arms in each BCLC stage. BCLC staging trended as an independent prognostic factor for OS (B vs. C; hazard ratio [HR] 0.756 [95% CI 0.546-1.046]). Consistent treatment benefit was observed for ramucirumab versus placebo across BCLC stages. Median OS for ramucirumab versus placebo was 13.7 versus 8.2 months; HR (95%): 0.43 (0.23-0.83) and 7.7 versus 4.8 months; HR (95%): 0.72 (0.59-0.89) for BCLC stage B and C, respectively. Adverse events (AEs) were consistent with observations from both studies; hypertension was the most frequent grade ≥3 AE. Liver function was preserved throughout the study and similar between treatment arms in both BCLC stages. Conclusions: Ramucirumab provided a better survival benefit irrespective of BCLC stage and was well tolerated without compromising liver function during treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-460
Number of pages10
JournalLiver Cancer
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2021


  • Barcelona clinic liver cancer stage
  • Ramucirumab
  • α-fetoprotein


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