WASHINGTON (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Fewer than half of studied hepatocellular carcinoma patients born between 1945 and 1965 were eligible for transplant, despite a 58% increase in HCC rate during the past decade, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases 2017.

This disparity is a cause for concern given that this cohort constitutes nearly 75% of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in the United States.

“Understanding hepatocellular carcinoma trends among the 1945-1965 birth cohort is particularly important given the increasing number of chronic liver diseases in that group,” said presenter Ann Robinson, MD , of Highland Hospital, Oakland, Calif.

In a retrospective study, researchers evaluated 38,045 patients born between 1945 and 1965 and who were on the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results ( SEER ) registry and diagnosed with HCC between 2004 and 2014.

Patients were predominantly male (81.6%), white (50%), insured by Medicare or private insurance (66.2%), and diagnosed with localized tumors (52%).

White and Hispanic patients displayed the largest increase in HCC diagnoses during the study period, growing by 67.6% and 66.1%, respectively, followed by Native American and African American patients, whose HCC diagnoses increased by 61% and 57.2%, respectively.

Overall, 57.2% of patients studied did not meet the Milan criteria, according to Dr. Robinson.

Disparities in patients’ meeting the Milan criteria were apparent once researchers adjusted for patients’ sex, race, insurance status, or cancer subtype.

The largest disparity was seen among patients who were uninsured or on Medicaid, who were half as likely to meet Milan criteria at time of diagnosis, compared with insured patients (odds ratio, less than 0.5; P less than .001).

African Americans also saw lower odds of eligibility for transplantation (OR, less than 0.75; P less than .001), compared with white patients.

While the difference between men and women was statistically significant (OR, 0.875; P = .022), the difference in odds was not as prominent as that of uninsured patients or African American patients was.

These disparities may have to do with a lack of patient knowledge or less frequent screening among these patients, as well as an overall rise in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to Dr. Robinson and her fellow investigators.

“It’s been well documented in prior studies that there is an underutilization of screenings both for one-time hepatitis and baby boomer population, despite recommendations by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]” said Dr. Robinson. Other factors may include whether patients know they should be receive these screenings, whether providers have educated their patients about this, and how much the provider knows about the screening guidelines.

The number of patients who meet the Milan criteria are growing, however, according to investigators. In 2013-2014, 46.3% of baby boomers met the Milan criteria, compared with 36.4% in 2004-2006.

Identifying vulnerabilities within these cohorts and increasing education for both providers and patients will help narrow the gap even further, explained Dr. Robinson.

“Looking at etiology-specific differences to know which populations are not receiving screening, [focusing on] things that can help us communicate this with patients, as well as distribute this information among care providers, and breaking down barriers to treatment,” are all important factors, according to Dr. Robinson.

Investigators were limited by SEER’s exclusion of etiology of HCC and comorbidities. Additionally, the researchers were unaware whether patients were receiving surveillance that was within practice guidelines.

Presenters reported no relevant financial disclosures.

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