Objective This trial compared the efficacy and safety of transarterial chemoembolisation (TACE) plus sorafenib with TACE alone using a newly established TACE-specific endpoint and pre-treatment of sorafenib before initial TACE. Design Patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) were randomised to TACE plus sorafenib (n=80) or TACE alone (n=76). Patients in the combination group received sorafenib 400 mg once daily for 2-3 weeks before TACE, followed by 800 mg once daily during on-demand conventional TACE sessions until time to untreatable (unTACEable) progression (TTUP), defined as untreatable tumour progression, transient deterioration to Child-Pugh C or appearance of vascular invasion/extrahepatic spread. Co-primary endpoints were progression-free survival (PFS), which is not a conventional one but defined as TTUP, or time to any cause of death plus overall survival (OS). Multiplicity was adjusted by gatekeeping hierarchical testing. Results Median PFS was significantly longer in the TACE plus sorafenib than in the TACE alone group (25.2 vs 13.5 months; p=0.006). OS was not analysed because only 73.6% of OS events were reached. Median TTUP (26.7 vs 20.6 months; p=0.02) was also significantly longer in the TACE plus sorafenib group. OS at 1 year and 2 years in TACE plus sorafenib group and TACE alone group were 96.2% and 82.7% and 77.2% and 64.6%, respectively. There were no unexpected toxicities. Conclusion TACE plus sorafenib significantly improved PFS over TACE alone in patients with unresectable HCC. Adverse events were consistent with those of previous TACE combination trials. Trial registration number NCT01217034.
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