The role of external beam radiotherapy for hepatocellular carcinoma patients with lymph node metastasis: A meta-analysis of observational studies

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Purpose: Lymph node metastasis of hepatocellular carcinoma is categorized as advanced in Barcelona Clinic of Liver Cancer staging, and sorafenib is a sole treatment recommended. However, appliance of local treatment including external beam radiotherapy (EBRT) has not been uncommon. We performed a meta-analysis and systemically reviewed current literature to evaluate the efficacy and safety of EBRT. Methods: PubMed, Medline, Cochrane library, and Embase were systemically searched until December 17, 2017. The primary endpoint of analyses was response rate (RR), and 1-year overall survival and complication rates of grade ≥3 were secondary endpoints. Complications were primarily assessed descriptively. Results: A total of 8 studies comprising 521 patients were included. The pooled RR was 73.1% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 63.6–80.9), and high-dose EBRT groups had better RR than the low-dose group (82.2% [95% CI: 74.4–88.1] vs 51.1% [95% CI: 40.3–61.7]; P=0.001]. The pooled 1-year overall survival rate was 41.0% (95% CI: 32.9–49.6). Six studies assessed the survival benefit according to RR, and 5 (83.3%) of these 6 studies reported statistically significant survival benefit. The most common grade ≥3 toxicities were thrombocytopenia and gastrointestinal complication, with pooled rates of 3.4% (95% CI: 1.2–9.5) and 3.5% (95% CI:1.7–7.2), respectively. Conclusion: EBRT showed a pooled RR of 73.1% and was safely performed. EBRT might palliate symptoms through tumor reductions and improve survival. Use of sorafenib combined or sequentially with EBRT can be recommended rather than monotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3305-3315
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Management and Research
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jan 1



  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Lymph node metastasis
  • Meta-analysis
  • Radiation therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

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