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Gastroenterology. 2008 Jun;134(7):1890-9; quiz 2155. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2008.02.064. Epub 2008 Mar 4.

Hepatocellular carcinoma is associated with an increased risk of hepatitis B virus recurrence after liver transplantation.

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INSERM, U 785, Villejuif, France.



Hepatitis B virus (HBV) recurrence after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) is significantly reduced by prophylaxis with hyperimmune antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs) globulins (HBIG) and antiviral drugs. The role of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in HBV recurrence remains unclear. We investigated the association between HCC pre-OLT and HBV recurrence post-OLT.


We studied 99 hepatitis B surface antigen-positive patients who underwent OLT for cirrhosis. The median follow-up period was 43 months. All patients received HBIG, and 51 also received lamivudine and/or adefovir. Of these 99 patients, 31 had HCC before OLT. Total HBV DNA and covalently closed circular (ccc)-DNA were measured in tumor and nontumor tissues from the explanted livers of 16 of these 31 HCC patients and, also, in a context of tumor recurrence, in 3 patients who developed HBV/HCC recurrence.


Fourteen patients (14.1%) developed HBV recurrence within a median period of 15 months post-OLT. HCC at OLT, a pre-OLT HBV DNA viral load > or = 100,000 copies/mL, and HBIG monoprophylaxis were independently associated with HBV recurrence post-OLT. Eleven out of the 31 patients with HCC at OLT presented with HBV recurrence and 3 out of the 68 patients without HCC had HBV recurrence (P < .0001). HBV recurrence was more frequent in patients who developed HCC recurrence (7/8 patients, 87.5%) than in those who did not (4/23 patients, 17.4%) (P < .0001). In the 16 explanted livers, cccDNA was detectable in HCC cells in 11 and in nontumor cells in 12. cccDNA was detected in a context of HCC recurrence in 2 of the 3 patients tested who developed HBV/HCC recurrence.


The associations of HCC pre-OLT, and HCC recurrence with HBV recurrence post-OLT, and the detection of HBV DNA and cccDNA in HCC suggest that HBV replication in tumor cells may contribute to HBV recurrence post-OLT.

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