BACKGROUND - Preorthotopic liver transplantation locoregional therapy (LRT) for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) reduces drop-out rates in patients awaiting orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). In this study, we investigated the efficacy of LRT as a strategy to improve longterm survival after transplantation.
STUDY DESIGN - A retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data identified 100 patients with HCC who underwent OLT between 1985 and 2005. Of these, 46 received LRT in the form of transarterial chemoembolization, radiofrequency ablation, percutaneous ethanol injection, or a combination of these.
RESULTS - The 1-, 3-, and 5-year survivals, regardless of LRT, were 81.3%, 66.1%, and 61.3%, respectively. Demographic data and waiting time for OLT were similar between LRT and untreated groups. Pre-OLT radiologic stage was comparable (LRT: 2.11 +/- 0.74 versus Untreated: 2.39 +/- 0.94; p = 0.16). At the time of transplantation, the LRT group had notable tumor downstaging (1.50 +/- 1.34 versus 2.49 +/- 1.17; p = 0.008). The LRT group had better 5-year survival (82.4% versus 51.8%; p = 0.01), but this improvement was observed in patients with HCC stages II, III, and IV (77.6% versus 37.4%; p = 0.016). Sixteen LRT patients, and none untreated, revealed complete tumor necrosis with no viable tumor cells on explant pathology (pT0). These patients did not experience any longterm recurrence, in contrast to those with similar pre-OLT tumors.
CONCLUSIONS - OLT is a viable treatment option for primary HCC. LRT substantially downstages the primary tumor and improves longterm survival in patients with advanced disease. Complete tumor necrosis with LRT is associated with excellent longterm recurrence-free survival.