Sirolimus-based immunosuppression for liver transplantation in the presence of extended criteria for hepatocellular carcinoma



An increasing number of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are undergoing evaluation for listing for liver transplantation. Criteria for selection require ongoing review for suitability. A consecutive series of 40 patients with HCC within the standard Milan criteria (single tumors n = 19 <5 cm, or up to 3 tumors <3 cm) and beyond (Extended Criteria; single tumors n = 21 <7.5 cm, multiple tumors <5 cm) underwent liver transplant with a sirolimus-based immunosuppressive protocol designed to minimize exposure to calcineurin inhibitors and steroids. At 44.3 ± 19.3 months (mean ± standard deviation) follow-up, 1- and 4-year survivals (Kaplan-Meier) are 94.1 ± 5.7% and 87.4 ± 9.3%, in the Milan group, respectively, and 90.5 ± 6.4% and 82.9 ± 9.3% in the Extended Criteria group, respectively. Five patients died during follow-up, only 1 from recurrent HCC. Five tumor recurrences have occurred at median 17 (mean 22 ± 17) months posttransplant, 1 in the Milan group and 4 in the Extended Criteria group. Median survival in the patients with recurrent tumor is 42 months (mean 45 ± 25), and the median postrecurrence survival is 15.5 months (mean 23 ± 16). The rate of patients who were alive and free of tumor at 1 and 4 years is 94.1 ± 5.7% and 81.1 ± 9.9%, respectively, in the Milan group and is 90.5 ± 6.4% and 76.8 ± 10.5%, respectively, in the Extended Criteria group. Five patients had sirolimus discontinued for toxicity, while 24 of 35 surviving patients have sirolimus monotherapy immunosuppression. In conclusion, the Milan criteria for liver transplantation in the presence of HCC can be carefully extended without compromising outcomes. This sirolimus based immunosuppression protocol appears to have beneficial effects on tumor recurrence and survival with an acceptable rate of rejection and toxicity. (Liver Transpl 2004;10:1301–1311.)