Timothy M. Schmitt, Sean C. Kumer, Neeral Shah, Curtis K. Argo, Patrick G. Northup
Background. Restrictive staging criteria for liver transplant (LT) patients with HCC in the U.S. have resulted in favorable long-term recurrence-free survival, but these criteria exclude a subgroup of patients who, despite tumor size beyond T2 stage, demonstrate an acceptable outcome. The aim of this study was to assess the waiting list and post-transplant mortality of patients with HCC tumors greater than Milan T2 stage. Methods. The U.S. OPTN standard transplant dataset was analyzed for patients with a diagnosis of HCC who were listed for liver transplantation between February 2002 and 2008. Those patients with Milan T3 stage tumors were compared to patients with T1 and T2 lesions. Multivariate survival models were developed to investigate independent predictors of death or tumor recurrence post-transplant. Results. 7,391 patients with HCC were identified. 351 (4.75%) had T3 lesions. Compared to non-T3 patients, total tumor burden was greater and total alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) was higher in the T3 patients. T3 patients also were more likely to receive pretransplant locoregional therapy. There were no significant differences between T3 patients and non-T3 patients in demographic variables or physiologic MELD score at the time of transplant, waiting time, or donor risk index. Waiting list mortality was increased for T3 patients compared to non-T3 and tumor progression while waiting was higher. Independent predictors of waiting list mortality included physiologic MELD score at the time of listing, total tumor burden, and serum AFP. There was significant regional variation in the utilization of exceptions for T3 patients and UNOS regions 4, 9, and 10 performed a higher percentage of their transplants in T3 patients compared to other regions. There was no difference in post transplant survival between T3 and non-T3 patients. Independent predictors of post-transplant mortality included physiologic MELD score at the time of transplant, recipient age, and donor risk index. In patients with T3 tumors, total tumor burden was not an independent predictor of post transplant survival. Conclusions. Patients who are listed for liver transplantation with Milan stage T3 HCC have higher waiting list mortality but have similar post-transplant survival compared to patients with T1 and T2 HCC.
Key words. Hepatocellular carcinoma, Chemoembolization, Transplantation mortality, Chemotherapy, Cancer