The benefit of liver transplant beyond Milan criteria: An analysis using the National Cancer Database

Published:September 09, 2022DOI:



      Published studies examining the efficacy of liver transplantation in patients presenting with hepatocellular cancer beyond the traditional Milan criteria for liver transplantation have primarily been single institution series with limited ability to compare outcomes to alternative methods of management.


      We queried the National Cancer Database to identify patients presenting between 2004 and 2016 with histologically confirmed clinical stage III and IVA hepatocellular cancer. Multivariable regression was used to identify factors associated with liver transplantation. Patients undergoing liver transplantation were 1:1 propensity score-matched for age, demographics, comorbid disease, clinical stage, and histologic resection margin to those undergoing surgical resection. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to compare overall survival profiles for matched cohorts.


      Seven hundred and ninety-two patients met inclusion criteria—590 (74.5%) underwent surgical resection and 202 (25.5%) liver transplantation. On adjusted analysis, patients undergoing liver transplantation were less likely to have advanced age (>60 years; odds ratio 0.39, 95% confidence interval [0.21–0.71]) and to be of Black race (odds ratio 0.42, 95% confidence interval [0.23–0.73]) or Asian (odds ratio 0.25, 95% confidence interval [0.11–0.53]) ethnicity but were more likely to have advanced (Charlson score >2) comorbidity scores, (odds ratio 2.48, 95% confidence interval [1.58–3.90]) and more likely to have private health insurance (odds ratio 4.17, 95% confidence interval [1.31–18.66]) than those undergoing surgical resection. On Kaplan-Meier analysis of matched cohorts, patients undergoing liver transplantation demonstrated significantly better rates of 5-year overall survival (65.3% vs 26.3%, P < .0001) and longer median overall survival times than those undergoing resection (53.1 ± 2.78 vs 26.9 ± 1.20 months, P < .0001).


      Liver transplantation offers the potential to be an effective treatment modality in select patients presenting with stage III and IVA hepatocellular cancer.
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