Analysis of preoperative circulating tumor cells for recurrence in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma after liver transplantation

Ann Transl Med. 2020 Sep;8(17):1067. doi: 10.21037/atm-20-2751.


Background: Liver transplantation (LT) is an effective option for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and end-stage liver cirrhosis. However, organ shortage and tumor recurrence are the main obstacles limiting its popularization and application in HCC patients. Testing for circulating tumor cells (CTCs) would be a valuable strategy to predict the recurrence and metastasis of HCC after LT. Various CTCs detection methods have different advantages and disadvantages. This study aims to investigate the predictive value of testing for CTCs based on immunofluorescence in situ hybridization of peripheral blood cells in patients with HCC after LT.

Methods: A total of 50 patients who received testing for CTCs and then underwent LT were enrolled in this study. Negative enrichment and immunofluorescence in situ hybridization (imFISH) methods were introduced to detect CTCs.

Results: Twenty-six (52%) patients were CTC-positive, and 24 (48%) patients were CTC-negative. The results showed that CTCs result was correlated with tumor size (ꭓ2=5.773, P=0.016), AFP level (ꭓ2=5.454, P=0.020), tumor grade (ꭓ2=6.478, P=0.039) and Recurrence(ꭓ2=6.211, P=0.013).Twelve patients had recurrence after LT within one year. The results showed that the CTCs result (P=0.034) was the only independent factor impacting long-term survival. The 1-year disease-free survival rates of CTC-negative and CTC-positive patients were 91.6% and 61.5%, respectively (P=0.020). The 1-year overall survival of CTC-positive patients and CTC-negative was 88.5% and 91.7%, respectively (P=0.751).

Conclusions: CTCs result was closely related to the early recurrence of patients with HCC after LT. CTC-positive patients had a worse prognosis after LT than the CTC-negative group.

Keywords: Circulating tumor cell (CTC); hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); liver transplantation (LT).