Response to transarterial chemoembolization as a biological selection criterion for liver transplantation in hepatocellular carcinoma

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Criteria to select patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) for liver transplantation (LT) are based on tumor size and number of nodules rather than on tumor biology. The present study was undertaken to assess the role of transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) in selecting patients with tumors suitable for LT. Ninety-six consecutive patients with HCC were treated by repeatedly performed TACE, 62 of them exceeding the Milan criteria. Patients meeting the Milan criteria were immediately listed, and patients beyond the listing criteria were listed upon downstaging of the tumor following successful TACE. Fifty patients were finally transplanted. Of these 50 patients, 34 exceeded the Milan criteria. In these 96 patients, overall 5-year survival was 51.9%. However, it was 80.9% for patients undergoing LT and 0% for patients without transplantation (P < 0.0001). Tumor recurrence was primarily influenced by the control of the disease through continued TACE during the waiting time. Freedom from recurrence after 5 years was 94.5% in patients (n = 39) with progress-free TACE during the waiting time. Tumor recurrence was significantly higher in patients (n = 11) who after initial response to TACE progressed again before LT (freedom from recurrence 35.4%; P = 0.0017). Progress-free course of TACE during the waiting time (P = 0.006; risk ratio, 8.95), and a limited number of tumor nodules as assessed in the surgical specimen (P = 0.025; risk ratio, 0.116) proved to be significant predictors for freedom from recurrence in the multivariate analysis. Milan criteria were without impact on recurrence. Our data suggest that sustained response to TACE is a better selection criterion for LT than the initial assessment of tumor size or number. Liver Transpl 12:1260-1267, 2006. © 2006 AASLD

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