Department of Surgery, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technical University, Munich, Germany.
Locoregional interventional bridging therapy (IBT) is an accepted neoadjuvant approach in liver transplant candidates with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, the prognostic value of IBT in patients with advanced HCC is still undefined.
The aim of this trial was to evaluate the impact of postinterventional tumor necrosis on recurrence-free long-term survival after liver transplantation (LT) in patients with HCC, especially focusing on those exceeding the Milan criteria on pretransplant radiographic imaging.
PATIENTS AND METHODS:
A total of 93 consecutive liver transplant candidates with HCC were included in this trial. In 36 patients, tumors were clinically staged beyond Milan criteria prior LT. Fifty-nine patients underwent IBT by transarterial chemoembolization or radiofrequency ablation pretransplantation. Postinterventional tumor necrosis rate as assessed at liver explant pathology was correlated with outcome post-LT.
There was no significant difference in 5-year tumor-free survival rate between the IBT- and the non-IBT subpopulation (78% versus 68%, P = 0.25). However, tumor response following IBT (≥50% tumor necrosis rate at explant pathology) resulted in a significantly better outcome 5 years post-LT (96%) than tumor non-response to IBT (<50% tumor necrosis rate at explant pathology; 21%; P<0.001). Five-year recurrence-free survival rate was 80% in Milan Out patients with extended post-IBT tumor necrosis versus 0% in Milan Out patients without tumor response to IBT (P<0.001). None of macromorphological HCC features, but only the absence of increased (18)F-fluoro-deoxy-glucose ((18)FDG) uptake on pretransplant positron emission tomography (PET) was identified as independent predictor of postinterventional tumor response (P<0.001).
Our results implicate that extended postinterventional tumor necrosis promotes recurrence-free long-term survival in patients with HCC beyond standard criteria. Pretransplant PET assessment may identify those patients with advanced HCC that will benefit from post-IBT tumor response and may, thereby, achieve excellent posttransplant outcome.