Liver transplantation outcomes for early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma: Results of a multicenter study



The incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a frequent and incurable complication of cirrhosis, continues to rise. Orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) has been proposed as a treatment for unresectable, intrahepatic HCC limited in extent to the Milan criteria adopted by the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) in 1998. More recently, somewhat less restrictive University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)10, criteria were proposed. To examine the long-term outcomes of OLT for HCC patients and to assess the UNOS policy of assigning weighted allocation points to patients with HCC, we retrospectively analyzed 144 patients (113 after 1998) with HCC who underwent OLT over an 11-year period at 3 institutions from UNOS Region 1. We compared their outcomes with 525 patients (272 after 1998) who underwent OLT for nonmalignant liver disease. The 1- and 5-year survival rates were 80.3% and 46.7%, respectively, for patients with HCC and 81.5% and 70.6%, respectively, for patients without HCC (P = .020). However, there was no difference in survival between HCC and non-HCC patients after implementation of disease-specific allocation for HCC in 1998. A higher proportion of the HCC cohort was older and male and had chronic HCV infection and alcoholic liver disease. In univariate analysis, having alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels of 10 ng/mL or less and meeting clinical and pathologic UCSF criteria were each significant predictors of improved survival (P = .005, P = .02, and P = .03, respectively). AFP greater than 10 ng/mL and exceeding pathologic UCSF criteria were also significant predictors of recurrence (P = .003 and P = .02, respectively). In conclusion, taken together, our data suggest that OLT is an acceptable option for patients with early HCC and that UCSF criteria predict outcome better than Milan or UNOS criteria. Regardless of which criteria are adopted to define eligibility, strict adherence to the criteria is important to achieve acceptable outcomes. (Liver Transpl 2004;10:1343–1354.)