Impact of sirolimus on the recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma after liver transplantation



Tumor recurrence after liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma is associated with a poor prognosis. Because immunosuppression is a well-known risk factor for tumor growth, it is surprising that its possible role in the outcome of liver transplantation has been poorly evaluated. We performed a case-control review of prospectively collected data and compared 2 groups of patients according to the type of immunosuppression after liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma at a single center. One hundred six patients received tacrolimus and mycophenolate mofetil, and 121 received sirolimus. Patients in the sirolimus group had significantly higher recurrence-free survival rates than patients in the tacrolimus group (P = 0.0003). The sirolimus group also had significantly higher patient survival rates than the tacrolimus group at 1 year (94% versus 79%), 3 years (85% versus 66%), and 5 years (80% versus 59%; P = 0.001). Sirolimus was well tolerated, and the patients in this study did not have the increase in surgical complications noted by other investigators. Leukopenia was the most common side effect, but it typically resolved with dose reduction. Dyslipidemia and mouth ulcers were common but were easily controlled. In summary, the data suggest a beneficial effect of sirolimus immunosuppression on recurrence-free survival, which translates into patient survival benefits. Liver Transpl 15:1834–1842, 2009. © 2009 AASLD.