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Liver Transplant Patients May Gain More Years

Liver transplantation may offer hope of a longer life for patients with liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma or HCC), according to an analysis performed by Dr. Paul J. Thuluvath and associates at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, U.S.A., based on data derived from the United Network Organ Sharing database, covering patients who went through the procedure from 1987 to 2001.

Liver transplantation may even be the best treatment available to patients suffering from HCC and advanced cirrhosis, the investigators conclude, as it offers complete tumor resection and cure of the underlying liver ailment.

They note that that only 20 percent of HCC and cirrhosis patients are suitable for resection.  Further, the five-year survival rate following resection or ethanol injection is roughly 30 percent.

In their report to be published in the December 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Thuluvath and his associates found that more than half of the HCC patients covered in the analysis who had undergone liver transplantations had gone on to live five years or more following the procedure.  

In their analysis that involved 985 HCC liver transplant patients and a control group numbering over 33,000, consisting of patients who had transplants for liver conditions considered non-malignant, the investigators found that while the five-year survival rate of 42.3 percent for the HCC group was lower than the 71.7 percent for the control group, the five-year survival rate for cancer patients went up considerably from 25.3 percent during the 1987-1991 period, to 61.1 percent from 1997 to 2001, which was attributed mainly to careful patient selection based on prescribed criteria.

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