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Eur J Surg Oncol. 2010 Mar;36(3):275-80. doi: 10.1016/j.ejso.2009.10.001. Epub 2009 Oct 25.

Long-term survival after recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma in liver transplant patients: clinical patterns and outcome variables.

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  • 1Department of General, Visceral and Vascular Surgery Friedrich-Schiller-University, Erlanger Allee 101, D-07740 Jena, Germany.



The objective of this trial was to analyze the clinical patterns and outcome variables of recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in liver transplant patients.


Sixty patients after liver transplantation (LT) for HCC were analyzed. All of them received initially a calcineurin-inhibitor based immunosuppressive regimen. Recurrent HCC was treated by surgical intervention, if eligible, or adjuvant therapies. Furthermore, patients were converted to a Sirolimus (SRL)-based immunosuppressive regimen after tumor relapse. The impact of clinical and histopathological variables on post-recurrence survival was analyzed in uni- and multivariate analysis.


Sixteen liver recipients developed HCC recurrence between 4 and 58 months (median: 23 months) post-LT. Sites of first tumor recurrence were lung (n = 5), liver (n = 4), bone (n = 4), cerebrum (n = 1), adrenal gland (n = 1) and peritoneum (n = 1). Seven patients were amenable for surgical resection, while 9 patients were only suitable for adjuvant treatment (n = 4) or general medical support (n = 5). Median survival rate post-recurrence was 65 months (range: 12-136 months) in patients amenable for surgical therapy, and 5 months (range: 1-52 months) in patients unsuitable for surgical intervention (P = 0.01). Multivariate analysis identified late (>24 months) posttransplant tumor relapse (P = 0.039) and surgical therapy (P = 0.014) as independent predictors of long-term survival after tumor relapse. Five patients are tumour-free alive for a median of 65 months after surgical resection of recurrent HCC and conversion to SRL.


Liver transplant patients with HCC recurrence should be treated surgically, if eligible, since this is an independent predictor of long-term survival.

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