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Liver transplantation for cholangiocarcinoma: current best practice

DeOliveira, Michelle L.

Current Opinion in Organ Transplantation: June 2014 - Volume 19 - Issue 3 - p 245–252
doi: 10.1097/MOT.0000000000000087

Purpose of review Cholangiocarcinoma is a rare tumour with dismal prognosis. Only radical resection offers a chance for cure with reported survivals ranging from 25 to 45% at 5 years. Considering the low rate of resectability and lack of efficacy of other treatments, liver transplantation has emerged as a reasonable approach to cure selective patients with unresectable diseases. The use of liver transplantation, however, is associated with the inherent risk of early tumour recurrence due to the need for immunosuppression and the poor survival rate. This review will focus on the role of liver transplantation in treating patients with cholangiocellular cancer.

Recent findings The indication of liver transplantation for cholangiocarcinoma has evolved over time moving from an absolute to a relative contraindication until eventually becoming the best indication for a small group of patients presenting with unresectable perihilar cholangiocarcinoma, when associated with a neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy. In contrast, the indication of liver transplantation for intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma is far from being established and should be offered only under protocol, mainly for small tumours in the setting of cirrhosis.

Summary The poor outcome of cholangiocarcinoma, irrespective of the therapy, justifies the search for novel approaches. Only selective patients with perihilar cholangiocarcinoma subjected to a neoadjuvant protocol may qualify for liver transplantation.

Department of Surgery, Swiss HPB and Transplant Center, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Correspondence to Michelle L. deOliveira, MD, FACS, Division of Swiss HPB & Transplantation, Department of Surgery, University Hospital Zurich, Raemistrasse 100, CH- 8091 Zurich, Switzerland. Tel: +41 44 255 11 11; fax: +41 44 255 44 49; e-mail:

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins