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Abstract

Liver transplantation (LT) is a curative modality for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), especially in patients with cirrhosis. However, there are still risks of recurrence. C-reactive protein (CRP), an acute-phase inflammatory reactant that is synthesized by hepatocytes, has been related to the prognosis of various malignancies, including HCC. In this study, we investigated the role of a high CRP level in predicting the posttransplant outcomes of HCC patients. We analyzed 85 patients undergoing LT between August 2000 and July 2010 whose pretransplant serum CRP levels were available. Only 2 patients underwent deceased donor LT, and the remaining patients underwent living donor LT. With 1 mg/dL used as a cutoff value, 27 patients showed high CRP levels (≥1 mg/dL) at the time of LT, and 58 showed low CRP levels (<1 mg/dL). The total bilirubin level, Child-Pugh grade, Model for End-Stage Liver Disease score, maximal tumor size, and frequency of intrahepatic metastasis were significantly higher in the high-CRP group. According to multivariate analyses, HCC beyond the Milan criteria, a high CRP level, and microvascular invasion were related to tumor recurrence, and a high CRP level and microvascular invasion were related to poor overall survival. When a subgroup analysis was performed according to the Milan criteria, a high CRP level was an independent factor for predicting poor outcomes in patients with HCC beyond the Milan criteria (P = 0.02 for recurrence and P < 0.001 for survival) but not in patients with HCC within the criteria. Serum CRP could be considered a useful and cost-effective biomarker for predicting outcomes after LT for HCC, particularly in patients beyond the Milan criteria. Liver Transpl, 2012. © 2012 AASLD.