PURPOSE - To evaluate outcomes of downstaging patients with advanced (American liver tumor study group stage III/IV) hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) to allow eligibility for orthotopic liver transplant (OLT).
METHODS - From 1999 to 2006, 202 patients with HCC were referred for transplant evaluation. Seventy-six (37.6%) patients with stage III/IV HCC were potential transplant candidates if downstaging was achieved by TACE. OLT was considered based on follow-up imaging findings. The number of patients who were successfully downstaged within the Milan criteria, tumor response using Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors criteria, findings at explant, and outcomes after transplant were tracked.
RESULTS - Eighteen of 76 (23.7%) patients had adequate downstaging to qualify for OLT under the Milan criteria. By Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors, 27/76 (35.5%) patients had a partial response, 22/76 (29%) had stable disease, and 27/76 (35.5%) had progressive disease. Seventeen of 76 (22.4%) patients who met other qualifications underwent OLT after successful downstaging (13/38 stage III;4/38 stage IV). Explant review demonstrated 28 identifiable tumors in which post-TACE necrosis was greater than 90% in 21 (75%). At a median of 19.6 months (range 3.6-104.7), 16/17 (94.1%) patients who underwent OLT are alive. One patient expired 11 months after OLT secondary to medical comorbidities. One of 17 (6%) OLT patients had recurrent HCC. This patient underwent resection of a pulmonary metastasis and is alive, 63.6 months from OLT.
CONCLUSION - Selected patients with stage III/IV HCC can be downstaged to Milan criteria with TACE. Importantly, patients who are successfully downstaged and transplanted have excellent midterm disease-free and overall survival, similar to stage II HCC.