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Long-Term Outcome of Liver Resection Versus Transplantation for Hepatocellular Carcinoma in a Region Where Living Donation is a Main Source

Pil Soo Sung, Hyun Yang, Gun Hyung Na, Seawon Hwang, Donghoon Kang, Jeong Won Jang, Si Hyun Bae, Jong Young Choi, Dong Goo Kim, Seung Kew Yoon, Young Kyoung You

(Department of Internal Medicine, Liver Research Center, Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, South Korea)

Ann Transplant 2017; 22:276-284

DOI: 10.12659/AOT.904287


BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to define the best curative strategy in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in a hepatitis B virus (HBV)-endemic region where living donation dominates the type of cadaveric donation for liver transplantation (LT).
MATERIAL AND METHODS: A retrospective cohort comprised those patients whose clinical course could potentially be traced for at least 10 years. We found 262 HCC patients who had undergone curative surgical treatment from March 1997 to August 2006. Among these patients, 156 were treated with liver resection (LR) (R group) and 106 patients underwent LT (T group, 100 patients with living donor). Tumor characteristics, overall survival (OS), and recurrence-free survival (RFS) were analyzed.
RESULTS: Postoperative mortality was not significantly different between the groups, whereas recurrence rate during the study period (until August 2016) was higher in the R group (56% in the R group versus 19% in the T group, p<0.001). The 10-year and 15-year OS and RFS were better in the T group. Subgroup analysis with patients having solitary and £5 cm tumor by preoperative imaging showed that the 10-year and 15-year OS and RFS were much better in the T group, irrespective of their preoperative liver function defined by MELD score. In the T group, resection as the surgical procedure and tumor size on histology were poor prognostic factors for RFS. Importantly, this superiority of LT over LR in OS and RFS applied only to the patients with relatively low preoperative alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels (AFP <100 ng/mL), because patients with higher levels compared with lower levels of AFP tended to have more recurrent tumors after LT, but not in the case of LR during long-term follow-up.
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, LT was associated with better survival outcomes than resection in patients with HCC in Korea, where living donation is a main transplant source.

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