1Department of Radiology, Division of Vascular and Interventional Radiology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School, 1 Deaconess Rd, Boston, MA 02215.
2Department of Medicine, Liver Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
3Clinical Research Center, Soroka University Medical Center, Beer-Sheva, Israel.
4Center for Healthcare Delivery Sciences, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA.
BACKGROUND. Complete pathologic necrosis (CPN) is associated with improved survival in patients who undergo liver transplant (LT) after locoregional therapy (LRT) for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this article was to identify patient, HCC, and transplant center characteristics associated with rates of CPN on explant evaluation using a large national sample of patients undergoing LT after LRT for HCC measuring 3 cm or smaller. METHODS. This retrospective study used data from the United Network for Organ Sharing database. The study included 6265 adults (median age, 62 years; 1505 women, 4760 men) who underwent LT after a single type of LRT (either transarterial chemoembolization [TACE], thermal ablation, or transarterial radioembolization [TARE]) for HCCs measuring 3 cm or smaller at one of 118 U.S. transplant centers from April 12, 2012, to March 31, 2020. Patients were classified as having CPN if explant evaluation showed 100% necrosis of all HCCs. Associations with CPN were explored. Centers were categorized into tertiles on the basis of center-level CPN rates, and tertiles were compared. RESULTS. LRT was performed by TACE in 69.5% (4352/6265), thermal ablation in 19.4% (1217/6265), and TARE in 11.1% (696/6265) of patients. CPN rate was 18.5% (805/4352) after TACE, 35.8% (436/1217) after thermal ablation, 33.6% (234/696) after TARE, and 23.5% (1475/6265) overall. In multivariable analysis incorporating age, sex, model for end-stage liver disease score, α-fetoprotein level before LRT, wait list time, number of HCCs, HCC size, and the transplant center (as a random factor), use of thermal ablation (OR, 2.19; 95% CI, 1.86-2.57; p < .001) or TARE (OR, 1.92; 95% CI, 1.57-2.36; p < .001), with TACE as reference, independently predicted greater likelihood of CPN. Center-level CPN rates ranged from 0.0% to 50.0%. With centers stratified by CPN rates, ablation was performed more frequently than TACE in 5.0% of centers in the first, 15.4% in the second, and 23.1% in the third tertiles (p = .07). CONCLUSION.CPN rate on explant evaluation was low. Thermal ablation or TARE, rather than TACE, was associated with higher likelihood of CPN in patient-level and center-level analyses. CLINICAL IMPACT. Findings from this large national sample support a potential role of thermal ablation or TARE for achieving CPN of HCC measuring 3 cm or smaller.