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Hepatology. 2015 Jun;61(6):1968-77. doi: 10.1002/hep.27752. Epub 2015 Mar 20.

Downstaging of hepatocellular cancer before liver transplant: long-term outcome compared to tumors within Milan criteria.

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Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA.
Division of Transplant Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA.
Division of Interventional Radiology, Department of Radiology, University of California, San Francisco.


We report on the long-term intention-to-treat (ITT) outcome of 118 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) undergoing downstaging to within Milan/United Network for Organ Sharing T2 criteria before liver transplantation (LT) since 2002 and compare the results with 488 patients listed for LT with HCC meeting T2 criteria at listing in the same period. The downstaging subgroups include 1 lesion >5 and ≤8 cm (n = 43), 2 or 3 lesions at least one >3 and ≤5 cm with total tumor diameter ≤8 cm (n = 61), or 4-5 lesions each ≤3 cm with total tumor diameter ≤8 cm (n = 14). In the downstaging group, 64 patients (54.2%) had received LT and 5 (7.5%) developed HCC recurrence. Two of the five patients with HCC recurrence had 4-5 tumors at presentation. The 1- and 2-year cumulative probabilities for dropout (competing risk) were 24.1% and 34.2% in the downstaging group versus 20.3% and 25.6% in the T2 group (P = 0.04). Kaplan-Meier's 5-year post-transplant survival and recurrence-free probabilities were 77.8% and 90.8%, respectively, in the downstaging group versus 81% and 88%, respectively, in the T2 group (P = 0.69 and P = 0.66, respectively). The 5-year ITT survival was 56.1% in the downstaging group versus 63.3% in the T2 group (P = 0.29). Factors predicting dropout in the downstaging group included pretreatment alpha-fetoprotein ≥1,000 ng/mL (multivariate hazard ratio [HR]: 2.42; P = 0.02) and Child's B versus Child's A cirrhosis (multivariate HR: 2.19; P = 0.04).


Successful downstaging of HCC to within T2 criteria was associated with a low rate of HCC recurrence and excellent post-transplant survival, comparable to those meeting T2 criteria without downstaging. Owing to the small number of patients with 4-5 tumors, further investigations are needed to confirm the efficacy of downstaging in this subgroup.

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