Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the value and timing of orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) in the treatment of metastatic neuroendocrine tumors (NET).
Summary background data: Liver metastasis from NET seems less invasive than other secondary tumors. This observation suggests that OLT may be indicated when other therapies become ineffective. However, the potential benefit of this highly aggressive procedure is difficult to assess due to the scarcity and heterogeneity of NET.
Methods: A retrospective multicentric study was carried out, including all cases of OLT for NET performed in France between 1989 and 1994. There were 15 cases of metastatic carcinoid tumor and 16 cases of islet cell carcinomas. Hormone-related symptoms were present in 16 cases (55%). Only 5 patients (16%) had no previous surgical or medical therapy before OLT. Median delay from diagnosis of liver metastasis and OLT was 19 months (range, 2 to 120).
Results: The primary tumor was removed at the time of OLT in 11 cases, by upper abdominal exenteration in 7 cases and the Whipple resection in 3. Actuarial survival rate after OLT was 59% at 1 year, 47% at 3 years, and 36% at 5 years. Survival rates were significantly higher for metastatic carcinoid tumors (69% at 5 years) than for noncarcinoid apudomas (8% at 4 years), because of higher tumor- and non-tumor-related mortality rates for the latter.
Conclusion: OLT can achieve control of hormonal symptoms and prolong survival in selected patients with liver metastasis of carcinoid tumors. It does not seem indicated for other NET.