Background: Serum lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels could be a prognostic factor for sorafenib-treated patients with several types of solid tumor because it reflects hypoxic circumstances in aggressive tumors. For hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), however, the prognostic role of LDH has been controversial. Liver fibrosis can potentially cause hypoxia in the liver, which has not been previously studied in the patients with advanced HCC. Thus, we aimed to analyze the prognostic role of LDH based on the degree of fibrosis. Methods: Eighty-nine consecutive patients with HCC (Child-Pugh class A) who were treated using sorafenib were enrolled into this study. Pretreatment characteristics and changes in hepatic functional tests based on early response to sorafenib and serum LDH levels were analyzed. The degree of fibrosis was estimated using the aspartate aminotransferase (AST) to platelet ratio index (APRI), and the tumor response was evaluated after 3 months of sorafenib treatment. Results: Overall, five patients discontinued sorafenib within 4 weeks. For the other 84 patients, those with progressive disease (PD) had significantly high pretreatment LDH levels, which correlated with the APRI score but not with the tumor stage. Multivariate logistic analysis revealed that older age and lower pretreatment LDH levels were independent prognostic factors for a better response to sorafenib. In patients who discontinued sorafenib early, three experienced acute liver failure accompanied with an increase in serum LDH. Conclusions: We demonstrated that baseline serum LDH levels in HCC patients were affected by liver fibrosis but not by the tumor stage, and these LDH levels could be a marker for early response to sorafenib. A marked increase in serum LDH levels during sorafenib administration might also indicate subsequent acute liver failure. Close observation of serum LDH levels before and during sorafenib treatment could be useful in managing treatment of patients receiving this therapy.
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