Liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma

Cancer J. Mar-Apr 2008;14(2):95-9. doi: 10.1097/PPO.0b013e31816a0f6f.


Liver transplantation has emerged as an optimal treatment for stage I and II hepatocellular carcinoma for patients with underlying cirrhosis as it provides a treatment for the underlying liver disease as well as a reduced incidence of recurrent cancer. The current system of organ allocation in the United States allows an opportunity for liver transplantation for patients with tumor burden within the Milan criteria (a single tumor 2-5 cm or up to 3 lesions with none >3 cm). Outcomes of patients receiving transplants within these criteria approach outcomes for patients receiving transplants for all indications (85.9%, 74.8%, and 64.1% actuarial survival at 1, 3, and 5 years, respectively, for those with HCC receiving transplants compared with 82%, 73%, and 67% for the entire cohort). Transarterial chemoembolization, radiofrequency ablation, and other pretransplant treatment modalities aimed to slowing tumor growth for patients on a transplant waiting list are commonly used, although the impact on pretransplant disease progression or posttransplant survival remains uncertain. There is continued controversy over expanding patient selection criteria, in particular for those who have undergone downstaging of tumors. In addition, the role of certain immunosuppressive agents such as sirolimus in the reducing HCC recurrence posttransplant remains unclear.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / surgery*
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • Recurrence


  • Immunosuppressive Agents