Median survival in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and portal vein tumor thrombosis (PVTT) is 2–6 months; conventionally liver transplantation is contraindicated.
We studied outcomes following living donor liver transplantation (LDLT) post-PVTT downstaging (DS) with stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), and tumor ablation (with transarterial chemo- or radio-embolization).
Of 2348 consecutive LDLTs, 451 were for HCC, including 25 with PVTT (mainly Vp1-3) after successful DS and 20 with Vp1/2 PVTT without previous treatment. DS was attempted in 43, was successful in 27 (63%), and 25 underwent LDLT. Median alpha fetoprotein (AFP) at diagnosis and pre-LDLT were 78.1 ng/mL (3-58 200) and 55 ng/mL (2-7320), respectively. Mean DS to LDLT time was 10.2 weeks (5–16). Excluding 2 postoperative deaths, 1- and 5-year overall survival (OS) and recurrence-free survival (RFS) were 82%, 57%, and 77%, 51%, respectively, comparable to survival in 382 HCC patients without PVTT undergoing upfront LDLT (5-y OS 65%, P = 0.06; RFS 66%, P = 0.33, respectively). There was a trend toward better OS in DS+LDLT versus non-DS LDLT group (5-y OS/RFS—48%/40%). OS was significantly better than in HCC-PVTT patients receiving no intervention or palliative Sorafenib alone (1-y OS of 0%) or Sorafenib with TARE/SBRT (2-y OS of 17%) at our center during the study period. Initial AFP <400 ng/mL and AFP fall (initial minus pre-LDLT) >2000 ng/mL predicted better RFS; Grade III/IV predicted worse OS in DS patients.
HCC patients with PVTT can achieve acceptable survival with LDLT after successful DS. Low initial AFP level, a significant drop in AFP with DS and low tumor grade, favorably influence survival in these patients.