Downstaging therapy followed by liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma beyond Milan criteria

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Abstract

Background.

Orthotopic liver transplantation is a curative treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma within Milan criteria, but these criteria preclude many patients from transplant candidacy. Recent studies have demonstrated that downstaging therapy can reduce tumor burden to meet conventional criteria. The present study reports a single-center experience with tumor downstaging and its effects on post–orthotopic liver transplantation outcomes.

Methods.

All patients with hepatocellular carcinoma who were evaluated by our multidisciplinary liver services team from 2012 to 2016 were identified (N = 214). Orthotopic liver transplantation candidates presenting outside of Milan criteria at initial radiographic diagnosis and/or an initial alpha-fetoprotein >400 ng/mL were categorized as at high risk for tumor recurrence and post-transplant mortality.

Results.

Of the 214 patients newly diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma, 73 (34.1%) eventually underwent orthotopic liver transplantation. The majority of patients who did not undergo orthotopic liver transplantation were deceased or lost to follow-up (47.5%), with 14 of 141 (9.9%) currently listed for transplantation. Among transplanted patients, 21 of 73 (28.8%) were considered high-risk candidates. All 21 patients were downstaged to within Milan criteria with an alpha-fetoprotein <400 ng/mL before orthotopic liver transplantation, through locoregional therapies. Recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma was higher but acceptable between downstaged high-risk and traditional candidates (9.5% vs 1.9%; P > .05) at a median follow-up period of 17 months. Downstaged high-risk candidates had a similar overall survival compared with those transplanted within Milan criteria (log-rank P > .05).

Conclusions.

In highly selected cases, patients with hepatocellular carcinoma outside of traditional criteria for orthotopic liver transplantation may undergo downstaging therapy in a multidisciplinary fashion with excellent post-transplant outcomes. These data support an aggressive downstaging approach for selected patients who would otherwise be deemed ineligible for transplantation.

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