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Challenging the principle of utility as a barrier for wider use of liver transplantation for hepatocellular cancer

Michał Grąt MD, PhD, Jan Stypułkowski MD, Waldemar Patkowski MD, PhD, Karolina M. Wronka MD, Emil Bik, Maciej Krasnodębski MD, Łukasz Masior MD, PhD, Zbigniew Lewandowski PhD, Michał Wasilewicz MD, PhD, Karolina Grąt MD, Marek Krawczyk MD, PhD, Krzysztof Zieniewicz MD, PhD
Hepatobiliary Tumors
Volume 24, Issue 11 / October , 2017

Abstract

Background

Although transplant benefit appears superior for patients with advanced hepatocellular cancer (HCC), liver transplantation remains limited to selected low-risk HCC patients to keep their outcomes similar to heterogeneous group of non-HCC patients. The purpose of this study was to assess the rationale for current policy of restricting access to liver transplantation to minority of HCC patients based on utility principle.

Methods

This retrospective cohort study comprised 1246 liver transplant recipients, including 206 HCC and 1040 non-HCC patients. Patient survival was the primary outcome measure. Patients with HCC and benign diseases were divided into low-, moderate-, and high-risk subgroups basing on independent risk factors for disease-free survival and model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) score (<30, 30–40, >40), respectively.

Results

MELD (p < 0.001) and presence of HCC (p = 0.008) were independent risk factors for early and late mortality, respectively. Total tumor volume (p = 0.008) and alpha-fetoprotein (p = 0.013) were independent predictors of recurrence and mortality used for division of HCC patients into low-, moderate-, and high-risk subgroups, with disease-free survival rates of 74.9% (5 years), 51.7% (5 years), and 8.0% (3 years), respectively (p < 0.001). There were no differences in 5-year overall survival between low-risk HCC (74.9%) and non-HCC (81.9%) patients (p = 0.210), moderate-risk HCC (63.3%) and non-HCC (68.0%) patients (p = 0.372), and high-risk HCC (55.0%) and non-HCC (56.0%) patients (p = 0.559).

Conclusions

The principle of utility is unequally applied for restriction of access to liver transplantation for HCC patients. The results provide rationale for discussion on reinitiation of liver transplantation for advanced HCCs.

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