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The Outcomes of Systemic Treatment in Recurrent Hepatocellular Carcinomas Following Liver Transplants



Treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) recurrences following liver transplant (LT) is challenging. Most clinical trials of systemic therapies for advanced HCC excluded patients with any history of organ transplant. We aimed to assess the outcomes in using various systemic therapies in patients with post-LT recurrence.


Consecutive patients with HCC and recurrences following LT at a large tertiary centre from 2005 to 2018 were reviewed. Overall survival (OS), response rates and adverse events (AEs) were analysed.


Forty-three consecutive patients with a recurrence of HCC following LT were identified from 2005 to 2018. Median OS from diagnosis of recurrence was 17 months (CI 11.3, 22.7). Early recurrence within 12 months of transplant was associated with a significantly worse median survival of 10 months (CI 8.5, 11.4) compared to 26 months (CI 18.8, 33.2) when recurrences occurred after 12 months from transplant (p < 0.001) with a hazard ratio of 0.104 (log-rank test, p < 0.001). A total of 41 patients had received systemic therapies and 79.1% of them were on sorafenib as the first-line treatment. Among these patients treated with sorafenib, median OS from recurrence was 14 months (CI 7.3, 20.7). Hand-foot syndrome (34.7%) was most common among AEs followed by diarrhoea (26.7%). Overall, AEs led to dose interruptions in 8.8% of patients. Notably, 47.1% of patients received subsequent lines of systemic therapies after sorafenib.


Early recurrence within 1 year from transplant was the most significant risk factor. Treatment efficacy and adverse events and tolerability of sorafenib were comparable with those in the setting of advanced HCC without transplant.

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All named authors meet the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors criteria for authorship for this article, take responsibility for the integrity of the work as a whole, and have given their approval for this version to be published.

Author Contributions

All authors made substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data; drafted the work or revised it critically for important intellectual content; approved the version to be published; and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

Prior Presentation

Data from this manuscript was presented at ASCO 2021 as an abstract.


All authors confirm they have nothing to declare.

Compliance with Ethics Guidelines

We thank the participants of the study. Consent was waived in accordance to local ethics committee because of the retrospective nature of the study. This study was performed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Data Availability

The datasets generated during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Correspondence to Thomas Yau.

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Li, B.C.W., Chiu, J., Shing, K. et al. The Outcomes of Systemic Treatment in Recurrent Hepatocellular Carcinomas Following Liver Transplants. Adv Ther 38, 3900–3910 (2021).

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  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Liver transplant
  • Recurrence
  • Survival
  • Systemic therapy