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Based upon preclinical evidence for improved antitumor activity in combination, this phase I study investigated the maximum-tolerated dose (MTD), safety, activity, pharmacokinetics (PK), and biomarkers of the mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitor, temsirolimus, combined with sorafenib in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).Patients with incurable HCC and Child Pugh score ≤B7 were treated with sorafenib plus temsirolimus by 3 + 3 design. The dose-limiting toxicity (DLT) interval was 28 days. The response was assessed every two cycles. PK of temsirolimus was measured in a cohort at MTD.Twenty-five patients were enrolled. The MTD was temsirolimus 10 mg weekly plus sorafenib 200 mg twice daily. Among 18 patients at MTD, DLT included grade 3 hand–foot skin reaction (HFSR) and grade 3 thrombocytopenia. Grade 3 or 4 related adverse events at MTD included hypophosphatemia (33%), infection (22%), thrombocytopenia (17%), HFSR (11%), and fatigue (11%). With sorafenib, temsirolimus clearance was more rapid (P < 0.05). Two patients (8%) had a confirmed partial response (PR); 15 (60%) had stable disease (SD). Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) declined ≥50% in 60% assessable patients.The MTD of sorafenib plus temsirolimus in HCC was lower than in other tumor types. HCC-specific phase I studies are necessary. The observed efficacy warrants further study.