Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Referral to a Transplantation Unit

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Abstract

Aim

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), although being infrequent, is the second-most common primary hepatic malignancy in children, after hepatoblastoma (HB). The prognosis is very poor. We present our series of children with HCC referred to our transplant unit to be assessed as candidates for liver transplantation (LT).

Methods

A retrospective review of HCCs referred to our transplant unit in the past 20 years (1994-2015) was performed. Age at diagnosis, disease-free survival, location of recurrence, initial treatment, secondary treatment, and mortality were noted.

Main Results

Ten patients (8 boys, 2 girls) met the inclusion criteria. Median age at diagnosis was 11.5 years (0.5-14). HCC was associated with tyrosinemia in two patients, while the tumor developed in absence of previous liver disease in eight. Seven children attempted tumor resection earlier elsewhere. LT was not considered suitable in six patients due to extrahepatic tumor extension and finally it was performed in four (two with tyrosinemia and two with “de novo” HCC). Only one of the transplants was primary, and the other three were performed as rescue therapy. After 78 (66-90) months of follow-up, the two patients with tyrosinemia remain alive and disease free, while the other two had distant relapses, 35 and 37 months after LT, respectively, and finally died due to tumor progression.

Conclusions

HCC is a rare, very aggressive tumor in children who has a very poor prognosis. Our results suggest the need for new strategies. Early referral of all cases to highly specialized centers with a liver transplant unit and perhaps a more liberal use of LT, even for selected, apparently resectable cases, are possible options.

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