Surgery for cholangiocarcinoma: the role of liver transplantation

HPB (Oxford). 2008;10(3):186-9. doi: 10.1080/13651820801992542.


Liver transplantation alone for unresectable hilar cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is fraught with frequent recurrence and poor long-term survival. The Mayo Clinic developed a novel therapeutic protocol combining neoadjuvant chemoradiation and orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) in 1993 to treat patients with unresectable hilar CCA or CCA arising in the setting of PSC.

Aim: We recently reviewed our experience over the past 14 years with the specific aim to evaluate the long-term outcomes of CCA patients treated according to our study protocol.

Methods: We analyzed data from all patients enrolled in the Mayo Clinic liver transplant protocol since 1993. Statistical data analysis of recurrence and survival rates was performed using the Kaplan-Meier method.

Results: 148 patients were enrolled in the protocol. Of 90 patients who completed neoadjuvant therapy and subsequent OLT, 71 are alive and 19 have died--only 8 due to recurrent CCA. Nineteen patients are awaiting OLT and 39 were removed from the protocol owing to disease progression or death. Overall, 1-, 3-, and 5-year patient survival was 82%, 63%, and 55%, respectively; 1-, 3-, and 5-year survival after OLT was 90%, 80%, and 71%.

Conclusions: Neoadjuvant chemoradiation and OLT achieves significantly lower recurrence and higher long-term survival rates than resection, OLT alone, or medical treatment in hilar CCA. Additional experience at independent transplant centers is necessary to confirm these encouraging results, address the role of neoadjuvant therapy and liver transplantation versus conventional resection, determine appropriate inclusion/exclusion criteria, and define the risk of disease progression while awaiting transplantation.

Keywords: Hilar cholangiocarcinoma; liver transplantation; neoadjuvant therapy.