Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma: Is there a role for liver transplantation?

Surgery. 2022 Mar;171(3):741-746. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2021.09.034. Epub 2021 Dec 8.


Background: Liver transplantation offers a potential for curative-intent treatment in patients presenting with non-metastatic intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma that is not amenable to partial hepatectomy. There is little empiric evidence evaluating the efficacy of liver transplantation in patients with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.

Methods: We queried the National Cancer Database to identify patients presenting with histologically confirmed clinical stage I to III intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma between 2004 and 2016. Propensity scoring was used to develop matched cohorts of patients undergoing treatment with liver transplantation, surgical resection, or chemotherapy alone. Kaplan Meier methods were used to compare rates of overall survival.

Results: One thousand four hundred and eleven patients met inclusion criteria. Of these, 66 (4.7%) underwent liver transplantation, 461 (32.7%) underwent surgical resection, and 884 (62.6%) were treated with chemotherapy alone. On adjusted analysis, patients undergoing liver transplantation were more likely to be male (odds ratio 4.35, 95% confidence interval [0.12, 0.42]), have a Charlson Comorbidity Score ≥2 (odds ratio 3.11, 95% confidence interval [1.44, 6.57]), and to receive both neoadjuvant (odds ratio 2.78, 95% confidence interval [1.36,5.75], and adjuvant (odds ratio 1.94, 95% confidence interval [0.97, 3.87]) systemic therapy than those undergoing resection. On Kaplan Meier analysis, patients undergoing liver transplantation demonstrated rates of 5-year overall survival (36.1% vs 34.7%, P = .53) that were statistically identical to those for stage-matched and margin-matched patients undergoing resection but significantly better than those for stage-matched patients treated with systemic therapy alone (36.1% vs 5.3%, P < .0001).

Conclusion: Patients undergoing liver transplantation for intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma demonstrate overall survival profiles similar to stage-matched and margin-matched patients undergoing surgical resection. Liver transplantation is an effective treatment modality in select patients presenting with localized intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / mortality
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / pathology
  • Bile Duct Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / mortality
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / pathology
  • Cholangiocarcinoma / surgery*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Hepatectomy*
  • Humans
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Liver Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Propensity Score
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome