Liver transplantation for malignancy: current treatment strategies and future perspectives

World J Gastroenterol. 2014 May 14;20(18):5331-44. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i18.5331.


In 1967, Starzl et al performed the first successful liver transplantation for a patient diagnosed with hepatoblastoma. In the following, liver transplantation was considered ideal for complete tumor resection and potential cure from primary hepatic malignancies. Several reports of liver transplantation for primary and metastatic liver cancer however showed disappointing results and the strategy was soon dismissed. In 1996, Mazzaferro et al introduced the Milan criteria, offering liver transplantation to patients diagnosed with limited hepatocellular carcinoma. Since then, liver transplantation for malignant disease is an ongoing subject of preclinical and clinical research. In this context, several aspects must be considered: (1) Given the shortage of deceased-donor organs, long-term overall and disease free survival should be comparable with results obtained in patients transplanted for non-malignant disease; (2) In this regard, living-donor liver transplantation may in selected patients help to solve the ethical dilemma of optimal individual patient treatment vs organ allocation justice; and (3) Ongoing research focusing on perioperative therapy and anti-proliferative immunosuppressive regimens may further reduce tumor recurrence in patients transplanted for malignant disease and thus improve overall survival. The present review gives an overview of current indications and future perspectives of liver transplantation for malignant disease.

Keywords: Carcinoma; Cholangiocellular; Fibrolamellar; Hepatoblastoma; Hepatocellular; Liver metastases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Graft Survival
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Liver Neoplasms / mortality
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Liver Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Liver Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Liver Transplantation* / mortality
  • Living Donors
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Immunosuppressive Agents