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J Clin Oncol. 2002 Mar 15;20(6):1527-36.

Simplified staging for hepatocellular carcinoma.

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International Cooperative Study Group on Hepatocellular Carcinoma, Department of Surgical Oncology, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, 77030, USA.



The current American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) staging system for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) fails to stratify patients adequately with respect to prognosis.


The ability of the currently proposed tumor (T) categories to effectively stratify the survival of 557 patients who underwent complete resection for HCC at four centers was examined. Independent predictors of survival were combined into a new staging system.


Using the current AJCC T classification, patients with T1 and T2 tumors had similar 5-year survivals (P =.6). In addition, the survival of patients with multiple bilobar tumors (T4) matched that of T3 patients (P =.5). Independent predictors of death were major vascular invasion (P <.001), microvascular invasion (P =.001), severe fibrosis/cirrhosis of the host liver (P =.001), multiple tumors (P =.007), and tumor size greater than 5 cm (P =.01). Based on our results, a simplified stratification is proposed: (a) patients with a single tumor and no microvascular invasion, (b) patients with a single tumor and microvascular invasion or multiple tumors, none more than 5 cm, and (c) patients with either multiple tumors, any more than 5 cm, or tumor with major vascular invasion (P <.001). Severe fibrosis/cirrhosis had a negative impact on survival within all categories. The survival of patients with lymph node involvement matched that of patients with major vascular invasion (P =.3).


The current AJCC staging system for HCC is unnecessarily complex. We propose a simplified model of stratification that is based on vascular invasion, tumor number, and tumor size and incorporates the effect of fibrosis on survival.

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