Objective: To investigate the influence of clear surgical resection margin width on disease recurrence rate after intentionally curative resection of colorectal liver metastases.
Background: There is consensus that a histological positive resection margin is a predictor of disease recurrence after resection of colorectal liver metastases. The dispute, however, over the width of cancer-free resection margin required is ongoing.
Methods: Analysis of observational prospectively collected data for 2715 patients who underwent primary resection of colorectal liver metastases from 2 major hepatobiliary units in the United Kingdom. Histological cancer-free resection margin was classified as positive (if cancer cells present at less than 1 mm from the resection margin) or negative (if the distance between the cancer and the margin is 1 mm or more). The negative margin was further classified according to the distance from the tumor in millimeters. Predictors of disease-free survival were analyzed in univariate and multivariate analyses. A case-match analysis by a propensity score method was undertaken to reduce bias.
Results: A 1-mm cancer-free resection margin was sufficient to achieve 33% 5-year overall disease-free survival. Extra margin width did not add disease-free survival advantage (P > 0.05). After the propensity case-match analysis, there is no statistical difference in disease-free survival between patients with negative narrow and wider margin clearance [hazard ratio (HR) 1.0; 95% (confidence interval) CI: 0.9–1.2; P = 0.579 at 5-mm cutoff and HR 1.1; 95% CI: 0.96–1.3; P = 0.149 at 10-mm cutoff]. Patients with extrahepatic disease and positive lymph node primary tumor did not have disease-free survival advantage despite surgical margin clearance (9 months for <1-mm vs 12 months for ≥1-mm margin clearance; P = 0.062).
Conclusion: One-mm cancer-free resection margin achieved in patients with colorectal liver metastases should now be considered the standard of care.