Progression of Alphafetoprotein Before Liver Transplantation for Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Cirrhotic Patients: A Critical Factor


Corresponding Author: René Adam,


Liver transplantation (LT) for cirrhotic/Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is associated with reduced survival in patients with poor histological features. Preoperative levels of alphafetoprotein (AFP) could predict negative biological features. AFP progression could be more relevant than static AFP levels in predicting LT outcomes. A total of 252 cirrhotic/HCC patients transplanted between 1985 and 2005 were reviewed. One hundred fifty-three patients were analyzed, 99 excluded (for nonsecreting tumors and/or salvage transplantation). Using receiver operating characteristics analysis for recurrence after LT, ‘progression’ of AFP was defined by >15 μg/L per month before LT. A total of 127 (83%) were transplanted under and 26(16%) over this threshold. After 45 months of follow-up (median), 5-year overall survival (OS) and recurrence free-survival (RFS) were 72% and 69%, respectively. Five-year survival in the progression group was lower than the nonprogression group (OS 54% vs. 77%; RFS 47% vs. 74%). Multivariate analysis showed progression of AFP >15 μg/L per month and preoperative nodules >3 were associated with decreased OS. Progression group and age >60 years were associated with decreased RFS. Male gender, progression of AFP and size of tumor >30 mm were associated with satellite nodules and/or vascular invasion. In conclusion, increasing AFP >15 μg/L/month while waiting for LT is the most relevant preoperative prognostic factor for low OS/DFS. AFP progression could be a pathological preoperative marker of tumor aggressiveness.