Hepatocellular carcinoma treatments are negatively impacted by COVID-19, says GlobalData

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) treatment has been deferred due to overburdened healthcare systems as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Leading data and analytics company GlobalData has also found that, within HCC, the pandemic has caused a delay to 16 clinical trials across Phase I to III, with the most notable being the Phase II/III TACE-3 trial investigating the safety and efficacy of nivolumab in combination with TACE for patients with intermediate-stage HCC.

The risk of infection is high in patients with chronic liver disease (CLD), liver transplant and cancer due to altered immune function. Among the aforementioned patient population, SARS-CoV-2 infection in patients with a cirrhotic liver can cause an increased risk of hepatic decompensation. As a result, HCC patients may be at an increased risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms and thus more likely to be admitted to intensive care. The pandemic has delayed  the care pathways for at least one quarter in 2020, and thus, more of COVID-19’s impact on HCC is expected to be revealed once patients regain access to healthcare.

Mandana Emamzadeh, PhD, Healthcare Analyst at GlobalData, comments, “Healthcare systems are facing limited resources, which has impacted HCC surveillance by deferring and potentially resulting in delayed diagnosis of HCC patients in early stage disease – the only curable stage – and in some cases may lead to progression to the intermediate or advanced stage. The lack of care pathways for those other than COVID-19 patients during the pandemic may contribute to CLD patients developing life-threatening HCC.”

COVID-19 has also caused delays to the clinical development of new drugs across multiple therapeutic areas. While the extent of the impact of COVID-19 on HCC is not fully known, the COVID19-CHIEF trial is underway to quantify this impact, with the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire aiming to estimate the incidence of COVID-19 in the HCC population in both hospital and ambulatory care.

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