Long-Term Outcome After Liver Transplantation for Hepatocellular Carcinoma Following Yttrium-90 Radioembolization Bridging Treatment

BACKGROUND: Bridging treatments are employed in liver transplant waitlist patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) because of the risk of tumor progression during the waiting time. Radioembolization is mostly employed in the control of large or multifocal HCCs when other locoregional treatment modalities cannot be applied because of the number or size of lesions. The purpose of this study was to evaluate our experience with the use of radioembolization as a bridge to transplantation and its effect on tumor recurrence and survival after liver transplantation.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: A retrospective review of 40 consecutive patients with HCC who underwent liver transplantation after radioembolization bridging treatment between January 2007 and December 2015 at the University Hospital Essen, Germany, was performed. Patients’ characteristics, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels, pathologic tumor response, tumor recurrence rate, and survival rates were examined through chart review.

RESULTS: Histopathological examination of the explanted liver specimen revealed complete tumor necrosis in 17 specimens, partial necrosis in 18 specimens, and no significant necrosis in five specimens. Median overall survival was 46 months. Nine patients developed recurrent HCC. Median time from liver transplantation to diagnosis of tumor recurrence was 15 months. There was a trend towards a lower risk of tumor recurrence for patients with complete necrosis on explant specimens. Patients with tumor recurrence demonstrated statistically significantly higher pre- and post-treatment AFP levels (p=0.0234 and p=0.0236) and statistically significantly more frequently microvascular invasion (p=0.0163).

CONCLUSIONS: Histopathological assessment of explanted livers revealed at least partial necrosis in 87.5% of patients. Patients with successful bridging treatment, i.e. complete necrosis of explant specimens, demonstrate a trend towards a lower risk of tumor recurrence.


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