Recurrence After Liver Transplantation for Hepatocellular Carcinoma: A New MORAL to the Story

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Abstract

Objective:

We sought to develop a “Model Of Recurrence After Liver transplant” (MORAL) for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Background:

The Milan criteria are used to allocate livers to patients with HCC requiring liver transplantation (LT) but do not include objective measures of tumor biology. Biological markers including the neutrophil-lymphocyte ratio (NLR) and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) have been associated with recurrence risk.

Methods:

Prospective cohort study of adults undergoing LT for HCC between January 2001 and December 2012.

Results:

A total of 339 patients were included. On multivariable Cox regression analysis, 3 preoperatively available factors were independent predictors of worse recurrence-free survival (RFS), namely, an NLR ≥ 5 (P < 0.0001, hazard ratio, HR: 6.2), AFP > 200 (P < 0.0001, HR: 3.8), and Size >3 cm (P < 0.001, HR: 3.2). The Pre-MORAL score was constructed from the hazard ratios and assigning patients points in an additive fashion, with a minimum of 0 points (no factors) and a maximum of 13 points (all 3 factors). The highest risk patients in the Pre-MORAL had a 5-year RFS of 17.9% compared with 98.6% for the low risk group (P < 0.0001). The post-MORAL was constructed similarly using the 4 postoperatively available independent predictors of worse RFS, grade 4 HCC's (P < 0.0001, HR: 5.6), vascular invasion (P = 0.019, HR: 2.0), size >3 cm (P < 0.0001, HR: 3.2) and number >3 (P = 0.048, HR: 1.8). The pre- and post-MORAL were superior to Milan at predicting recurrence with c-statistics of 0.82 and 0.87, compared with 0.63, respectively. We then combined the scores to produce a combo-MORAL, with a c-statistic of 0.91 for predicting recurrence.

Conclusions:

The MORAL score provides a simple, highly accurate tool for predicting recurrence and risk-stratification pre- and postoperatively.

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