External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and surgery are local treatment modalities for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with portal vein thrombosis (PVT). This meta-analysis aims to evaluate the effectiveness and feasibility of these treatment modalities.
PubMed, Medline, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases were systematically searched until April 2021. The primary endpoint was overall survival (OS) of the patients; the adverse effects of the treatment were also investigated.
A total of 59 studies involving 9525 patients with HCC and PVT were included in this meta-analysis. All studies were non-randomized series, including seven comparative studies, and the remainder were single-arm studies or studies with comparative groups other than surgery or EBRT. The pooled rates of Child-Pugh class A were 74.6% and 95.3% in the EBRT and surgery arms, respectively, and the pooled main PVT rates were 40.7% and 15.5% in the EBRT and surgery arms, respectively (p < 0.001). Pooled 1- and 2-year OS rates of the EBRT arm were 44.1% (95% CI:40.3–48.0) and 21.7% (95% CI:18.9–24.8), respectively. In the subgroup of EBRT studies without main PVT, pooled 1- and 2-year OS rates were 59.9% (95% CI:48.9–70.1) and 30.5% (95% CI:15.2–51.8), respectively. In the surgery arm, the correlation rates were 62.8% (95% CI:55.0–70.0) and 42.5% (95% CI:34.4–51.0), respectively. The pooled 1-, and 2-year OS rates of surgery arm were significantly higher than those of EBRT arm (ps < 0.001), and not significantly different with the EBRT subgroup without main PVT (p = 0.762, 0.353, respectively). In studies of surgery accompanied by EBRT, the 1- and 2-year OS rates were 77.1% (95% CI:69.6–83.2) and 45.4% (95% CI:19.8–73.7), respectively. The pooled rates of grade≥3 toxicities ranged from 1.8 to 4.3%, depending on the type.
Surgery can yield a favorable survival outcome, whereas EBRT can be widely considered for patients, including those with inferior clinical profiles. Further studies are warranted to determine the possibility of improving the clinical outcomes of surgery accompanied by EBRT.