BACKGROUND: The aim of this systematic review was to assess the evidence on tumour downstaging before liver transplantation in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) initially staged beyond the Milan criteria.
METHODS: MEDLINE (from 1952), Embase (from 1980) and the Cochrane Library were searched. The review included cohort studies that reported the outcomes of patients with HCC outside the Milan criteria who underwent downstaging before transplantation.
RESULTS: Eight studies met the inclusion criteria and included a total of 720 patients who underwent transplantation following downstaging after initial presentation with disease outside the Milan criteria. The rate of successful downstaging varied from 24 to 69 per cent of patients. Reported survival rates ranged from 82 to 100 per cent, 79 to 100 per cent and 54•6 to 94 per cent at 1, 3 and 5 years respectively. These were comparable with results for patients presenting within the Milan criteria.
CONCLUSION: Successful downstaging of HCC to within the Milan criteria is feasible in a proportion of patients. Absolute and disease-free survival rates in patients transplanted following downstaging are comparable to those in patients within the Milan criteria.