Background: Liver metastases (LM) from breast cancer are generally considered as disseminated disease with a poor prognosis. However in selected patients hepatectomy may be an important adjunct to systemic treatment.
Methods: Fifty-four breast cancer patients (mean age 49.2 +/- 5.2 years) with LM as the sole site of metastatic disease (except for bone metastases in 3 patients) underwent hepatectomy between 1986 and 2000. The mean number of LM was 4.0 +/- 8. All patients presented either a stable disease or an objective response to chemotherapy. The last 25 patients also underwent hepatic artery catheter installation in order to receive postoperative hepatic artery infusion chemotherapy (HAIC).
Results: The postoperative morbidity was 12.9%. There was no postoperative mortality. R0 and R1-R2 resections were obtained in, respectively, 81.5% and 18.5% of patients. After a median follow-up of 32 months the median survival was 34 +/- 9 months, with 3- and 5-year overall survival rates of 50% and 34%, and 3- and 5-year disease-free survival rates of 42% and 22%, respectively. The number of LM, the presence of hilar lymph nodes (33%), and the completeness of resection had no significant prognostic impact. The only factor influencing survival in both the univariate and multivariate analysis was the hormone receptor status (P = 0.03): the relative risk of death was increased by 3.5-fold when negative. In the HAIC group, the liver recurrence rate decreased from 60.5% to 31.2% without any impact on global survival.
Conclusions: Hepatectomy is beneficial for selected patients with isolated LM. Indications should be based more on technical (low operative risk, probable R0 resection) than on oncologic criteria. The decision is simple for young patients but more difficult for older patients in whom a negative hormone receptor status appears to be a contraindication.