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Keywords:

  • hepatocellular cancer;
  • liver transplant;
  • tumor necrosis

Abstract:  Although liver transplantation (LT) is likely the most effective therapy for localized hepatocellular cancer (HCC), limited donor livers have resulted in prolonged waiting times for transplant. Pre-transplant therapy such as transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), percutaneous ethanol injection (PEI), and radiofrequency ablation (RFA) may be needed to sustain patients who are waiting. Records, imaging studies, and pathology to identify tumor necrosis on 15 explanted livers with HCC were reviewed. Forty-nine nodules were removed from 15 explanted livers. Five nodules in three livers that received no pre-transplant therapy were excluded from the study. Of the remaining 44 nodules in 12 patients, 29 (66%) had 75% or more tumor necrosis. Fifteen nodules in five patients had <75% necrosis and these were due to local/non-local recurrences or perhaps suboptimal treatment with RFA, TACE or cisplatin gel injection. Mean waiting time for LT was 162.5 d. Nine of 13 patients had a different number of nodules when listed as were seen at explant, although stage changed in only three patients. One patient died 48 months post-LT (recurrent HCC), while the remaining patients are alive 2–55 months post-LT. We conclude that pre-transplant treatments for HCC are generally effective in achieving tumor necrosis. Factors involved in eventual extent of HCC seen at LT may include adequacy of treatment, accuracy of imaging techniques, local/non-local recurrences, and time waiting for transplant. We now need to determine if tumor necrosis can allow patients to wait longer for transplant and eventually affect long-term outcome.