The role of hepatic transplantation in patients with nonresectable liver or bile duct cancer remains a controversial issue. An analysis of 95 consecutive cases was undertaken to evaluate retrospectively the pathological tumor stage--in accordance with the TNM system--and outcome after transplantation. Included were patients with the following diagnoses: hepatocellular carcinoma (n = 52), cholangiocellular carcinoma (n = 10), hepatoblastoma (n = 2), hemangiosarcoma (n = 2), bile duct carcinoma (n = 20), and liver metastases from different primary tumors (n = 9). The overall actuarial survival rate at 5 years was 20.4%. Median survival improved significantly within the last 4 years as compared to the preceding era (18.06 vs. 4.0 months). Currently 27 patients are alive, with the longest follow-up more than 12 years. The incidences of residual or recurrent tumor were 27 and 28, respectively. Particularly in patients who underwent transplantation for hepatocellular or bile duct carcinoma without extra-hepatic tumor spread, the results were significantly better; median survival time achieved for these two groups were 120 (p less than 0.01) and 35 months (p less than 0.05). Prolonged survival without tumor recurrence was not seen in patients with cholangiocellular carcinoma or liver metastases. These results demonstrate clearly that liver transplantation for hepatobiliary malignancy is still justified on the premises of careful patient selection by adequate tumor staging.