Predicting Mortality in Patients Developing Recurrent Hepatocellular Carcinoma After Liver Transplantation: Impact of Treatment Modality and Recurrence Characteristics

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To evaluate predictors of mortality and impact of treatment in patients developing recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) following liver transplantation (LT).

Summary of Background Data:

Despite well-described clinicopathologic predictors of posttransplant HCC recurrence, data on prognosis following recurrence are scarce.


Multivariate predictors of mortality following HCC recurrence were identified to develop a risk score model to stratify prognostic subgroups among 106 patients developing posttransplant recurrence from 1984 to 2014, including analysis of recurrence treatment modality on survival.


Of 857 patients undergoing LT, 106 (12.4%) developed posttransplant HCC recurrence (median 15.8 months following LT) with a median post-recurrence survival of 10.6 months. Patients receiving surgical therapy (n = 25) had a median survival of 27.8 months, significantly superior to patients receiving nonsurgical therapy (10.6 months) and best supportive care (3.7 months, P < 0.001). Multivariate predictors of mortality following recurrence included model for end-stage liver disease at LT >23, time to recurrence, >3 recurrent nodules, maximum recurrence size, bone recurrence, alphafetoprotein at recurrence, donor serum sodium, and pretransplant recipient neutrophil–lymphocyte ratio. A risk score model based on multivariate predictors accurately stratified recurrent HCC patients into prognostic subgroups, with low-risk patients (<10 points) demonstrating excellent median survival of 70.6 months, significantly superior to the medium-risk (12.2 months, 10–16 points) and high-risk (3.4 months, >16 points) groups (C-statistic 0.75, P < 0.001).


In the largest single-center report of recurrent HCC following LT, surgical treatment in well-selected patients is associated with significantly improved survival and should be pursued. A risk score model accurately stratifies prognostic subgroups, and may help guide treatment strategies.

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