Cachexia is Prevalent in Patients With Hepatocellular Carcinoma and Associated With Worse Prognosis

Nicole E. Rich, Samuel Phen, Nirali Desai, Sukul Mittal, Adam C. Yopp, Ju Dong Yang, Jorge A Marrero, Puneeth Iyengar, Rodney E. Infante, Amit G. Singal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Cancer cachexia is a wasting syndrome associated with functional impairment and reduced survival that impacts up to 50% of patients with gastrointestinal cancers. However, data are limited on the prevalence and clinical significance of cachexia in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of patients diagnosed with HCC at 2 United States health systems between 2008 and 2018. Patient weights were recorded 6 months prior to and at time of HCC diagnosis. Cachexia was defined as >5% weight loss (or >2% weight loss if body mass index <20 kg/m2), and precachexia was defined as 2% to 5% weight loss. We used multivariable logistic regression models to identify correlates of cachexia and multivariable Cox proportional hazard models to identify factors associated with overall survival. Results: Of 604 patients with HCC, 201 (33.3%) had precachexia and 143 (23.7%) had cachexia at diagnosis, including 19.0%, 23.5%, 34.7%, and 34.0% of patients with Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer stages 0/A, B, C, and D, respectively. Patients with cachexia were less likely to receive HCC treatment (odds ratio, 0.38; 95% confidence interval, 0.21–0.71) and had worse survival than those with precachexia or stable weight (11.3 vs 20.4 vs 23.5 months, respectively; P <.001). Cachexia remained independently associated with worse survival (hazard ratio, 1.43; 95% confidence interval, 1.11–1.84) after adjusting for age, sex, race, ethnicity, Child Pugh class, alpha-fetoprotein, Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer stage, and HCC treatment. Conclusions: Nearly 1 in 4 patients with HCC present with cachexia, including many with compensated cirrhosis or early stage tumors. The presence of cancer-associated weight loss appears to be an early and independent predictor of worse outcomes in patients with HCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1157-e1169
JournalClinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • Body Mass Index
  • Cachexia
  • Liver Cancer
  • Wasting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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