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J Clin Oncol. 2003 Dec 1;21(23):4329-35. Epub 2003 Oct 27.

The outcome of liver transplantation in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma in the United States between 1988 and 2001: 5-year survival has improved significantly with time.

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Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Johns Hopkins University Hospital, 1830 East Monument Street, Suite 428, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.



We hypothesized that the outcome of liver transplantation in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has improved over the past decade because of the application of published criteria for patient selection. In this study, we compared the outcome of liver transplantation in patients with and without HCC at different time periods using the United Network for Organ Sharing data.


We excluded children, patients with multiple organ transplantation or retransplantation, and those with incomplete survival data. The study period was arbitrarily divided into three time intervals: 1987 to 1991, 1992 to 1996, and 1997 to 2001.


During the study period, 985 patients with HCC (HCC group), and 33,339 without HCC underwent liver transplantation (control group). Kaplan-Meier patient and graft survivals were significantly lower for the HCC group compared with the control group. Cox regression analysis (after adjusting for other confounding variables) confirmed a lower patient survival in the HCC group (1-year survival, 77.0% v 86.7%; hazard ratio [HR], 1.7; 95% CI, 1.5 to 2.0; P <.0001) compared with the control group (5-year survival, 48.2% v 74.7%; HR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.9 to 2.4; P <.0001); HCC was an independent predictor of survival. Kaplan-Meier analysis showed a significant improvement in 5-year patient survival with time in patients with HCC (1987 to 1991, 25.3%; 1992 to 1996, 46.6%; 1997 to 2001, 61.1%; P <.0001). During the same period, there was only minimal improvement in survival among the control group.


Five-year survival of patients transplanted for HCC is excellent, with a steady improvement in survival over the past decade. It is possible that the published criteria for patient selection may have contributed to the better outcome.

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