In our experience, the primary obstacle precluding the widespread use of orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) for definitive therapy of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), even for early-stage disease, is preventing tumor recurrence. Chemoembolization is an attractive strategy to minimize tumor progression before OLT because of its shown antitumor effect, ability to be repeated, and minimal systemic toxicity. Thus, this pilot study was undertaken to determine the tolerability and treatment outcomes of pretransplantation chemoembolization of HCC followed by OLT. Between 1992 and 1997, 27 patients with HCC who had cirrhosis, no extrahepatic metastasis, less than three tumor nodules of less than 5 cm each, and no evidence of vascular invasion on preoperative imaging studies were enrolled onto the protocol. Chemoembolization was performed using Ivalon particles with mitomycin, doxorubicin, and cis-platin. Twenty-four patients completed the protocol with chemoembolization and a liver transplant. The mean United Network of Organ Sharing waiting time was 167 days. Chemoembolization was well tolerated. On examination of the explanted liver, the majority of patients had a single lesion, mean tumor size was 3.66 cm (range, 1.5 to 6 cm), and the majority of patients had stage II disease. None of the transplant recipients has developed recurrent HCC (mean follow-up, 29.2 months; range, 9 to 55 months). The 1- and 2-year disease-free survival rates are 91% and 84%, respectively. In conclusion, chemoembolization followed by OLT is well tolerated and associated with excellent outcomes in selected patients with HCC.
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