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Oncologist. 1997;2(3):164-170.

Indications and Role of Liver Transplantation for Malignant Tumors.

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Klinik fur Abdominal- und Transplantationschirurgie, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, 30625 Hannover, Germany.



The indication for liver transplantation in malignant liver tumors has been controversial due to disappointing results and shortage of donor organs. The authors evaluated the experience and results of a single center in order to define present indications and selection criteria in hepatobiliary malignancy.


Retrospective analysis of 212 patients who underwent liver transplantation for malignant tumors between 1972 and 1995: Primary hepatobiliary tumors: hepatocellular carcinoma, n = 124 (with underlying cirrhosis, n = 86; fibrolamellar subtype, n = 8); intrahepatic bile duct (cholangiocellular) carcinoma, n = 24; proximal bile duct carcinoma, n = 29; other uncommon entities (n = 15); secondary liver tumors: neuroendocrine, n = 11, and nonendocrine, n = 9.


Survival rates in primary liver cancer were correlated to International Union Against Cancer (UICC) tumor stage. For hepatocellular and proximal bile duct carcinoma significantly better outcome was found in UICC-tumor stage I and II versus III and IV. No long-term survival was found after transplantation for intrahepatic bile duct carcinoma, hemangiosarcoma and nonendocrine liver metastases. Comparison of transplant and resected patients with hepatocellular carcinoma stage I and II with underlying cirrhosis showed better survival after transplantation: 1-, 3-, 5-year survival rate of 83.3% versus 76.9%, 75.8% versus 44.0%, 60.6% versus 44.0%, and median survival 96.5 versus 23.2 months. Although this difference was not significant, no patient died from tumor recurrence in the transplant group versus three in the resection group.


Patients with malignant tumors can be selected for transplantation with predictable likelihood for long-term survival. According to the present data, liver transplantation can be considered in unresectable UICC-stage II hepatocellular and proximal bile duct carcinoma, the uncommon entities fibrolamellar carcinoma, epitheliod hemangioendothelioma and hepatoblastoma as well as liver metastases from neuroendocrine tumors. UICC-stage II and IV hepatocellular carcinoma as well as intrahepatic bile duct carcinoma, hemangiosarcoma and metastases from nonendocrine tumors should be excluded from transplantation alone. For hepatocellular carcinoma, multimodality treatment protocols have had a proven impact on the prevention of early recurrence and prolongation of survival. There is evidence that liver transplantation in still resectable hepatocellular carcinoma with underlying cirrhosis might be more appropriate in order to cure the cancer-bearing disease.

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