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Eur J Surg Oncol. 2007 Sep;33(7):868-73. Epub 2007 Jan 26.

Primary hepatocellular cancer in the explanted liver: outcome of transplantation and risk factors for HCC recurrence.

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Liver and Hepatobiliary Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK.



To evaluate the risk of recurrence of hepatocellular cancer (HCC) after liver transplantation (LT).


The clinical records of 104 patients with HCC in the explanted liver were examined.


HCC recurrence occurred in 12 patients. Recurrence was observed in all patients with a single nodule greater than 5 cm. Among the 5 patients with more than 3 tumours with a maximum diameter of 4.5 cm, no recurrence occurred. The survival rates were 81% and 64% at 1 and 5 years, respectively; the recurrence-free survival at 1 and 5 years was, respectively, 93% and 82%. Pre-LT alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) increased at a greater magnitude in patients who experienced recurrence, compared to those who did not. Tumour diameter, differentiation, satellitosis, AFP and the magnitude of AFP increase were predictive of recurrence. The 1- and 5-year recurrence-free survival for the 68 patients who had a single nodule up to 5 cm, or up to 3 nodules all less than 4.5 cm and with a maximum cumulative diameter of 8 cm, or more than 3 nodules all less than 2.5 cm, were 95% and 92%, respectively. For the 13 patients not meeting these criteria, the 1- and 5-year recurrence-free survival was, respectively, 75% and 54% (log Rank test p=0.019).


Patients with more than 3 small HCC nodules before LT could still have a good outcome without recurrence. A rapid increase in AFP could be useful in identifying patients with a greater risk of post-LT HCC recurrence.

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