Are Current National Review Board Downstaging Protocols for Hepatocellular Carcinoma Too Restrictive?

Ola Ahmed, Neeta Vachharajani, Kris P. Croome, Parissa Tabrizian, Vatche Agopian, Karim Halazun, Johnny C. Hong, Leigh Anne Dageforde, William C. Chapman, Mb Majella Doyle, Erin Maynard, Yikyung Park, Su Hsin Chang, Adeel S. Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Liver transplantation (LT) is an effective strategy for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). To qualify for standardized LT model for end-stage liver disease exception points, the United Network for Organ Sharing National Liver Review Board (NLRB) requires that the presenting and final HCC tumor burden be within the University of California San Francisco criteria, which were recently expanded (within expanded UCSF [W-eUCSF]). Current NLRB criteria may be too restrictive because it has been shown previously that the initial burden does not predict LT failure when tumors downstage to UCSF. This study aims to assess LT outcomes for HCC initially presenting beyond expanded UCSF (B-eUCSF) criteria in a large multicenter collaboration. STUDY DESIGN: Comparisons of B-eUCSF and W-eUCSF candidates undergoing LT at seven academic institutions between 2001 and 2017 were made from a multi-institutional database. Survival outcomes were compared by Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression analyses. RESULTS: Of 1,846 LT recipients with HCC, 86 (5%) met B-eUCSF criteria at initial presentation, with the remainder meeting W-eUCSF criteria. Despite differences in tumor burden, B-eUCSF candidates achieved comparable 1-, 5- and 10-year overall (89%, 70%, and 55% vs 91%, 74%, and 60%, respectively; p = 0.2) and disease-free (82%, 60%, and 53% vs 89%, 71%, and 59%, respectively; p = 0.07) survival to patients meeting W-eUCSF criteria after LT. Despite increased tumor recurrence in B-eUCSF vs W-eUCSF patients (24% vs 10%, p = 0.0002), post-recurrence survival was similar in both groups (p = 0.69). CONCLUSION: Transplantation for patients initially presenting with HCC B-eUSCF criteria offers a survival advantage similar to those with tumors meeting W-eUCSF criteria at presentation. The current NLRB policy is too stringent, and considerations to expand criteria should be discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-588
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


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