Hepatocellular carcinoma in liver transplant era: a clinicopathologic analysis

Transplant Proc. 2003 Dec;35(8):2986-90. doi: 10.1016/j.transproceed.2003.10.076.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common tumors in the world, and the prognosis is usually poor. Today, liver transplantation (LT) is a radical but frequently curative treatment modality for HCC. In selected patients, it cures HCC and the underlying cirrhosis at the same time. The present clinicopathological study examined the importance of tumor characteristics for their effects on recurrence and survival rates after LT for HCC. Forty-two native hepatectomy specimens among 250 consecutive orthotopic liver transplantations contained HCC. Patients were predominantly men (30 men, 12 women), ranging in age from 1 to 61 years (median 51). While 20 patients received cadaveric organs, 22 were transplanted from living donors. In 14 patients (33%) HCC presented as a solitary nodule, 5 (12%) as two nodules; 2 (5%) as three nodules; and 21 patients (50%) as more than three nodules. The maximal diameter of the largest tumor not larger than 3 cm in 28 patients (66%), exceeding this size in 14 patients (34%). There was a significant correlation between nodule number and tumor size (r = 0.36, P = 0.05). While 23 patients had no sign of vascular involvement, 17 tumors showed microscopic invasion and two large vessel involvement. There was a positive correlation between vascular invasion and nodule number (r = 0.41, P = 0.05). The histopathological grade of differentiation of the tumors was assessed as "well" in seven patients (14%), moderate in 28 (72%), and poor in 7 (14%). The differentiation was significantly poorer when vascular invasion was observed (r = 0.43, P =.01). According to the TNM classification, 11 patients (26%) were stage I, 6 (14%) stage II, 13 (31%) stage III, and 12 (29%) stage IV. After a median follow-up of 10 months (1-50 months), the overall mortality was 18% (n = 8). Patient survival at 6 month, 1, and 4 years was 88%, 80%, and 60%, respectively. The outcome was significantly poorer for TNM stage IV versus stage I,II, and III tumors to (P =.02). Tumor recurred in three patients at 4,6, and 50 months after liver transplantation. The sites of recurrence were bone, lung, and adrenal glands. In conclusion, liver transplantation represents a safe and feasible treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma with excellent outcomes compared with other treatment modalities. Liver transplantation offers excellent survival rates and chance for cure in stages I, II, and III hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhotic patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / surgery*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Liver Transplantation / methods*
  • Liver Transplantation / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Patient Selection
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome