Reappraisal of Failures in Downstaging Treatment of Hepatocellular Carcinoma Prior to Liver Transplant-Preliminary Report on the Impact of Underestimations of Tumor Numbers and Tumor Sizes as Measured From Imaging Before Transplant.


Department of Surgery, Far Eastern Memorial Hospital, New Taipei City, Taiwan. Electronic address: [Email]


Downstaging treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) prior to liver transplant (LT) is an accepted strategy to meet the Milan criteria. However, after transplant surgery, a reality is noted that the number or/and the size of some HCCs measured from the liver explants is different from that measured from the pre-LT imaging. If tumor number or tumor size measured from the liver explants was beyond that measured from pre-LT imaging, we define it as "failed downstaging." Among 27 patients who received downstaging therapies, there are 11 "number reduction failures" and 6 "size reduction failures." We attribute the discrepancy to 2 possible reasons; one is that the pre-LT imaging after downstaging could not completely detect all the HCC; the other is that the time interval between the downstaging and LT is long enough to develop new HCCs. After follow-up, 6 patients developed HCC recurrence. The significant factors affecting recurrence include tumor size from postdownstaging imaging (P = .048), tumor number ≥ 2 (P = .007), multiple sessions of downstaging (P = .03), ratio of neutrophil to lymphocyte (P = .047), and tumor number from liver explant (borderline P = .05). Tumor recurrence after LT is significantly higher in those with "size reduction failure" (P = .048). The interval between LT and tumor recurrence is significantly shorter in those with "size reduction failure" (P = .04). To decrease underestimations of HCC, combining various imaging studies including the computed tomographic scan, magnetic resonance imaging, and contrast ultrasonography is needed to increase the accuracy before LT. Repeated imaging studies at short intervals of no more than 3 months are necessary during a long wait. How to minimize the underestimations of HCC to determine the appropriate candidacy for LT is an important goal for transplantation surgeons.