Evaluation of absolute serum α-fetoprotein levels in liver transplant for hepatocellular cancer

Brian Mailey, Avo Artinyan, Joshua Khalili, Jordan Denitz, Nicelio Sanchez-Luege, Can Lan Sun, Smita Bhatia, Nicholas Nissen, Steven D. Colquhoun, Joseph Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Hypothesis: An elevated serum α-fetoprotein (AFP) level before orthotopic liver transplant (OLT) is predictive of mortality after OLT for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Design: Retrospective analysis of a population-based cohort. Setting: United Network for Organ Sharing registry (2003-2008). Patients: We identified 2253 patients who underwent OLT for HCC with available pre-OLT serum AFP values. Methods: Patients were stratified by AFP levels into low (<20 ng/mL), medium (20-399 ng/mL), or high (≥400 ng/mL) groups. Clinical and pathological characteristics were compared among groups. Survival curves were constructed by the Kaplan-Meier method, and univariate and multivariate Cox-regression analysis was performed. Results: Of the 2253 patients, 1210 (53.7%), 805 (35.7%), and 238 (10.6%) were in the low, medium, and high AFP groups, respectively. On univariate analysis, the low AFP group demonstrated the best 4-year survival (76%) compared with the medium (65%; P=.001) and high (57%; P<.001) AFP groups. When AFP levels in patients with only stage II HCC underwent assessment, improved survival in the low AFP group was still observed (P<.001). On multivariate analysis, the medium and high AFP groups were associated with higher mortality (hazard ratios, 1.50 [95% confidence interval, 1.19-1.89; P=.001] and 2.11 [1.55-2.88; P<.001], respectively). Conclusions: Serum AFP level is an independent prognostic predictor of outcome after OLT for HCC. The association between serum AFP value and post-OLT survival warrants further investigation to potentially better allocate donor allografts for HCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-33
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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