Adding Immunotherapy-Based Combination to TACE Improves Progression-Free Survival in Patients With Most Common Liver Cancer

For immediate release
January 19, 2024


Rachel Cagan Facci

ASCO Expert Perspective

“These results of the EMERALD-1 trial have the potential to establish a new standard of care for the treatment of unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma, a complex disease with poor prognosis, by showing for the first time that adding an immunotherapy-based combination to TACE significantly improved progression-free survival,” said Cathy Eng, MD, FACP, FASCO, ASCO Expert in Gastrointestinal Cancers.

Study at-a-Glance


The addition of an immunotherapy-based combination to transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) in patients with the most common form of liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma)


616 patients with embolization-eligible unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (uHCC)

Main Takeaway

TACE combined with durvalumab followed by durvalumab and bevacizumab improves progression-free survival in patients with uHCC compared to TACE alone.


  • Among the estimated 900,000 people worldwide diagnosed with liver cancer each year, approximately 20-30% of patients are eligible for embolization.
  • TACE has been the global standard of care in this setting for more than 20 years. However, most patients who receive TACE experience rapid disease progression or recurrence within the first year. 

ALEXANDRIA, Va. —The addition of durvalumab and bevacizumab to TACE significantly improved progression-free survival in patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (uHCC) that were eligible for embolization. According to the authors, this is the first trial to demonstrate improved clinical outcomes for immunotherapy-based combinations with TACE in these patients. The research will be presented at the 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium, taking place January 18-20 in San Francisco, California and online.

About the Study

“Research in other studies suggested that TACE would work well with two other types of anticancer therapy: immunotherapy, which attacks tumors using the immune system, and anti-VEGF therapy, which inhibits vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) – a protein which, when expressed in tumors, can promote blood flow to the tumor,” said lead study author Riccardo Lencioni, MD, from the Pisa University School of Medicine in Pisa, Italy.

EMERALD-1 is a double-blind, global, three-arm phase III study in which 616 patients with embolization-eligible unresectable HCC were randomized to treatment with durvalumab – an immunotherapy – plus bevacizumab – an anti-VEGF therapy – and TACE, durvalumab plus TACE, or TACE alone.

Key Findings

  • Patients treated with the combination of durvalumab, bevacizumab, and TACE demonstrated a significant improvement in progression-free survival, meaning they are likely to live longer without their cancer growing, spreading or getting worse vs. participants treated with TACE alone (median progression-free survival 15.0 vs 8.2 months).
  • There was not a statistically significant difference in progression-free survival in patients treated with durvalumab and TACE vs. TACE alone.
  • Objective response rate and time to progression were also superior in the durvalumab, bevacizumab, and TACE group.

Grade 3/4 treatment-related side effects were experienced by 32.5% of the durvalumab, bevacizumab, and TACE group; 15.1% of the durvalumab and TACE group; and 13.5% of the TACE group. Discontinuation of treatment occurred in 8.4% of the durvalumab, bevacizumab, and TACE group; 4.3% of the durvalumab and TACE group; and 3.5% of the TACE group.

Next Steps

The researchers continue to follow patients on the EMERALD-1 trial for the secondary endpoint of overall survival and are also studying different immune checkpoint inhibitors and embolization-based approaches for patients with embolization-eligible HCC.

The EMERALD-1 study was funded by AstraZeneca.

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