Toward optimizing the indications for orthotopic liver transplantation in hepatocellular carcinoma

Didier Samuel, Massimo Colombo, Hachem El-Serag, Rodolphe Sobesky, Nigel Heaton

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Key Points 1. Liver transplantation is currently an effective therapy for patients with HCC who meet the Milan criteria. 2. The proportion of patients on waiting lists for liver transplantation who have HCC has increased substantially in recent years. HCC is currently one of the major indications for liver transplantation; it is the indication for approximately one-third of liver transplants. 3. If the Milan criteria are not met, the survival rates after liver transplantation for HCC tend to decrease, mainly because of the catastrophic consequences of HCC recurrence. 4. A few studies have supported liver transplantation when the Milan criteria are exceeded, but extensions beyond the Milan criteria remain controversial. Even if an individual patient with HCC who does not meet the Milan criteria might benefit from liver transplantation, the limited number of currently available donor organs limits the indications for liver transplantation to those patients with HCC who have the greatest likelihood of survival after the procedure. 5. To patients with early-stage HCC, surgical resection can be offered if the hepatocellular function is well maintained and severe portal hypertension is not present. 6. To enable patients with HCC to have access to liver transplantation that is similar to the access for other patients without HCC in the MELD allocation system, additional points based on the number and size of HCC lesions are assigned to patients on the waiting list. However, this system requires further refinement to ensure that it is as fair as possible. 7. Liver transplantation for HCC should be restricted to those patients who are expected to have the same posttransplant survival as that of patients with nonneoplastic end-stage chronic liver disease. 8. On the basis of these considerations, a 5-year survival rate of 50% after liver transplantation for HCC seems too low.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLiver Transplantation
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Transplantation
  • Hepatology


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