Neoadjuvant transarterial chemoembolization improves survival after liver transplant in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma

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Objectives: Our aims were to determine whether transarterial chemoembolization before liver transplant for hepatocellular carcinoma improves posttransplant survival and whether patients downstaged by transarterial chemoembolization within Milan criteria have a posttransplant survival benefit. Materials and Methods: In this retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data, survival rates of 87 patients treated with and 68 patients not treated with transarterial chemoembolization before liver transplant were compared using 2-sample t tests and multivariate Cox regression. We also compared posttransplant survival of patients within Milan criteria versus those downstaged after transarterial chemoembolization. We controlled for disease severity by assessing, among other variables, tumor diameter before and at transplant and alpha-fetoprotein levels before transplant and transarterial chemoembolization. Results: Overall 1-, 3-, and 5-year survival rates were 84%, 71%, and 63%, respectively. These rates were 91%, 78%, and 73% for patients who received and 76%, 63%, and 54% for patients who did not receive transarterial chemoembolization. Hazard ratios were 0.56 for having versus not having transarterial chemoembolization (P =.04), 1.06 for total tumor diameter on explantation (P =.01), 1.5 for largest tumor > 3 cm (P =.15), and 2.9 for pretransplant alpha-fetoprotein > 659 ng/mL (P =.006). A higher end-stage liver disease score correlated with poorer overall survival (hazard ratio = 1.53; P <.001). Laboratory values, lipiodol uptake, imaging response, and downstaging into Milan criteria were not correlated with survival. Conclusions: Patients with hepatocellular carcinoma who were treated with neoadjuvant transarterial chemoembolization had better survival rates posttransplant than those not treated with transarterial chemoembolization. A high pretransplant alpha-fetoprotein level was negatively correlated with survival. Patients downstaged to Milan criteria after transarterial chemoembolization fared equally well versus those who met Milan criteria initially. Pretreatment with transarterial chemoembolization was positively correlated with survival posttransplant, with patients having a 44% reduction in posttransplant mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)638-643
Number of pages6
JournalExperimental and Clinical Transplantation
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2019


  • Alpha-fetoprotein
  • Chemoembolization
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Locoregional therapy
  • Milan criteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transplantation


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