Liver transplantation for symptomatic liver metastases of neuroendocrine tumours

G. Chan, W. Kocha, R. Reid, A. Taqi, W. Wall, D. Quan


Numerous reports have demonstrated that liver transplantation for neuroendocrine tumour metastasis is feasible. However, perioperative risks and long-term recurrences remain significant concerns. When liver transplantation is combined with extensive intestinal or pancreatic resection, the risk is particularly high.

We report our institutional experience of liver transplantations performed for liver metastases secondary to neuroendocrine tumours, and in combination with a review of the literature, we propose a set of selection criteria. The key points include unresectable hepatic metastases of neuroendocrine origin, absence of extrahepatic metastases, symptomatic disease that is refractory to medical therapy, a Ki-67 level less than 2%, previous resection of the primary disease, and previous therapy for metastatic neuroendocrine tumour.

In our experience, the patient in the first case had, post-transplantation, rapid disease progression because of an unidentified primary, and patient in the second case had primary non-function of the liver graft, requiring urgent re-transplantation. More recently, two liver transplantations were successfully performed. The indications were, in the first case, refractory hormonal secretion and, in the other, secondary biliary cirrhosis attributable to hepatic artery therapy with tumour in situ. Subclinical and stable recurrent disease has been detected by scintigraphy in the mesentery and lumbar spine in the former patient. A mesenteric recurrence developed in the latter patient 2 years post transplantation and was subsequently completely resected. At 4 and 5 years post transplantation, both patients are symptom-free. Recurrence after transplantation remains a significant concern, even with careful patient selection, but recurrences may remain indolent. If recurrences are progressive, they may still be amenable to additional medical or surgical therapy. A national or international consensus between oncologists and transplant specialists regarding the indications for liver transplantation is vital, because future progress will depend on careful patient selection and prospective study.

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)