Black patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) have shorter survival and more adverse clinical features at diagnosis than do non-Hispanic whites and other races, according to a single-center review.

Blacks were at a 33% increased risk of death because of HCC, compared with non-Hispanic whites, and were diagnosed at a later stage with larger tumors. Thus, they were less likely to be eligible for curative transplantation, said Dr. Patricia D. Jones of the University of Miami, who presented her findings during a teleconference in advance of the annual Digestive Disease Week.

“We found that race was the strongest predictor of survival in a diverse sample of patients diagnosed with HCC,” said lead author Dr. Jones, who is also on the staff of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the university.

“Most research on racial disparity in medical illness comes from large retrospective databases such as SEER [Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results], which represents 28% of the U.S. population. Florida is excluded from the SEER database, but Florida has a diversity of patients as well as a diversity of practitioners. More than 50% of our study sample was born outside of the U.S.,” Dr. Jones explained.

The study included 999 patients diagnosed with HCC at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center/Jackson Memorial Hospitals between 2005 and 2014.

Based on a review of patient records, median survival following a diagnosis of HCC was 301 days for black patients, compared with 534 days for non-Hispanic whites and 437 days for Hispanics.

An analysis showed that median tumor size in blacks was 5.2 cm, compared with 3.9 cm in whites. “This seems like a small difference, but tumor size greater than 5 cm excludes a patient from transplantation, which is curative,” she said. “Larger tumor size also suggests inadequate screening and lack of access to medical care.”

After adjustment for factors such as alcohol use, tobacco use, insurance, and age at diagnosis, non-Hispanic whites had a 25% reduced risk of death and Hispanics, a 21% reduced risk of death, compared with black patients. Black patients were also significantly more likely to have hepatitis B virus (HBV), compared with non-Hispanic whites (24.1% vs. 7%, respectively; P less than .01), which increases the risk of developing HCC.

“Hepatitis B virus can be prevented by vaccination. This may be an underlying issue in this population,” according to Dr. Jones.

Patients who were eligible for and went on to have a liver transplant had a 66% reduction in death, compared with those who did not. Only 11.9% of black patients had a liver transplant, compared with 33.3% of non-Hispanic whites. When adjusted for transplant, the survival gap between races was narrowed. Among transplant recipients, non-Hispanic whites had an 8% reduction in risk of death and Hispanics, a 7% reduction, compared with blacks.

Dr. Jones and her coinvestigators plan to conduct further research to explore risk factors for HCC among their diverse patient population and identify opportunities to maximize education and screening.

One limitation of this study, she said, is that some information may be missing in studies based on records, and the severity of underlying liver disease was not known.

“Because this is a single-center study, we have the ability to go back and get more detailed information to understand racial disparities. For example, we can continue to review the charts of these patients to determine medical conditions and comorbidities,” she said. “So far, the factors that have emerged are socioeconomic, related to access to care and insurance.”

Dr. Jones had no relevant financial disclosures.