Is liver resection justified for patients with hepatic metastases from breast cancer?

Ann Surg. 2006 Dec;244(6):897-907; discussion 907-8. doi: 10.1097/01.sla.0000246847.02058.1b.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine our experience with hepatic resection (HR) in a relatively unselected group of patients with breast cancer liver metastases (BCLM).

Background: Although medical therapies provide limited survival benefit (median survival, 3-15 months), inclusion of HR into the multimodality treatment of patients with BCLM remains controversial. Our approach has been to offer HR to all patients with BCLM, provided that curative hepatic resection was feasible and extrahepatic disease was controlled with medical and/or surgical therapy.

Methods: Outcomes for 85 consecutive patients (all female, median age, 47 years) with BCLM treated with HR from 1984 to 2004 were reviewed. Extrahepatic metastases had been treated prior to HR or were synchronously present in 27 patients (32%). BCLM were solitary in 32 patients (38%) and numbered more than 3 in 26 patients (31%). The prognostic value of each study variable was assessed with log rank tests for univariate analysis and Cox proportional hazard models for multivariate analysis.

Results: Within 60 days of major hepatectomy (> or =3 segments, 54 patients) or minor hepatectomy (<3 segments, 31 patients), there was no mortality. The median hospital stay was 9 days with complications occurring in 26% of patients. Microscopically and macroscopically positive margins were present in 18% (R1) and 17% (R2) of patients. Following HR, 28 patients (33%) developed isolated hepatic recurrences, 12 of whom were treated with repeat hepatectomy. At a median follow-up interval of 38 months, 32 patients were alive, yielding median and 5-year overall survivals of 32 months and 37%. Median and 5-year disease-free survivals were 20 months and 21%. Study variables independently associated with poor survival were failure to respond to preoperative chemotherapy (P = 0.008), an R2 resection (P = 0.0001), and the absence of repeat hepatectomy (P = 0.01).

Conclusions: For patients with BCLM, HR is safe and may provide a significant survival benefit over medical therapy alone. Response to preoperative chemotherapy, resection margin, and rehepatectomy for intrahepatic recurrence are key prognostic factors. Importantly, favorable outcomes can be achieved even in patients with medically controlled or surgically resectable extrahepatic disease, indicating that surgery should be considered more frequently in the multidisciplinary care of patients with BCLM.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hepatectomy*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome