Liver transplantation for cholangiocarcinoma

Discussion Board Forums Surgery, Resection & Transplant Treatment Options Liver transplantation for cholangiocarcinoma

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    Hi Sara,

    Thank you so much for your response. Understand that liver transplant may not be applied for extrahepatic metastasis, however, it empharsize that we can apply transplant for patients who are under Bitsmuth Type IV (tumor spreading to both intrahepatic ducts, for which resection cannot help).

    Therefore, in case of Bitsmuth type IV, we still have a hope of liver transplant, instead of normal radio/chemo (because resection cannot be applied) as advised in lots of documents?


    Hai Minh,

    I did not get that impression from the article you linked above. Rather, the protocol listed in the Table indicates that transplant is not an option if there is extrahepatic metasteses, lymph node metasteses, and local estension of the disease to adjacent organ or tissues. Those are all indicators that the cancer has advanced, so my interpretation is that advanced cases of hilar cholangiocarcinoma may not be able to get a transplant. Of course, that is something for the surgeon to decide. I merely present my interpretation.

    As far as whether or not transplant may be an option if the tumor returns, I don’t know the answer to that question. Among other factors, I imagine it would depend upon the extent that the tumor has returned, as well as what chemotherapy or radiation treatments the patient has previously had. That is a good question for your doctor, and is likely very case-specific.


    I’ve read some posts, and this one is quite interesting. As what i’ve understood from this post, liver transplantation is applied for advanced cholangiocarcinoma, not for early stage only. So, please scan through this and advise if this is incorrect.

    One more thing, does anyone know that if the resection is fail (after the surgery, the tumor come back), can liver transplant be a next treatment?

    Hai Minh


    This popped up today on the radar, and seemed pretty appropriate to include on this discussion:

    Liver transplantation for cholangiocarcinoma

    Cholangiocarcinoma (adenocarcinoma of the bile ducts) can be hard to diagnose and even harder to treat. It preferentially grows along the length of the common bile duct, often involving the periductal lymphatics, and commonly metastasizes to the lymph nodes.

    For hilar cholangiocarcinoma (tumor above the cystic duct), surgical resection is the treatment of choice in the absence of associated primary sclerosing cholangitis (PCS). However, approximately 10% of patients with cholangiocarcinoma have undying PSC, and the results of resection in this setting are dismal. Furthermore, cholangiocarcinoma in the setting of PSC is frequently multicentric, and is often associated with underlying liver disease with eventual cirrhosis and portal hypertension.

    This scenario led transplant centers to consider liver transplantation for hilar cholangiocarcinoma; however, the results were disappointing, with three-year survival rates less than 3%. The situation improved with the inclusion of neoadjuvant chemoradiation, which was based on the concept that the growth of hilar cholangiocarcinoma is locoregional.

    Neoadjuvant chemoradiation for cholang-iocarcinoma was introduced by the transplant team at the University of Nebraska in the late 1993 by the multidisciplinary team at Mayo Clinic protocol, which begins treatment with external beam radiation therapy, followed by protracted venous infusion of fluorouracil (5-FU) and brachytherapy (Iridium), and then abdominal exploration for staging with endoscopic ultrasound and finally capecitabine for two or three weeks until the final option of liver transplantation. The five-year survival rates for patients undergoing liver transplantation at Mayo Clinic after completing the neoadjuvant cholangiocarcinoma treatment protocol are excellent, at approximately 70%.

    According to an associate professor of surgery at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Chief of Liver Transplantation with the Mayo Clinic Transplant Center in Rochester, Minn., of 90 patients who underwent transplantation according to the Mayo Clinic protocol between 1993 and 2007, five-year survival was 71% and disease-free survival was 65%. For 15 patients, disease recurred after the transplant, with a mean time to recurrence of 25 months. Current eligibility for the Mayo Clinic protocol based on the presence of an unresectable tumor above the cystic duct or a resectable cholangiocarcinoma arising in the PSC; radial dimension of the tumor should be 3 cm or less, intra- or extrahepatic metastases should not be present and there should be no history of prior radiation therapy or transperitioneal biopsy.

    Combined chemoradiation therapy and liver transplantation achieves excellent results for highly selected patients with early-stage hilar cholangiocarcinoma; five-year patient survival after transplantation with this protocol 71%, and exceeds the results reported with resection for hilar cholangiocarcinoma. These results approach the survival after transplantation for chronic liver disease and HCC. Operative staging is essential, as positive findings preclude transplant in about 20% of patients.



    My husband, Scott, is two months out from transplant and is doing fabulous. The University of Utah has adopted the cholangiocarcinoma protocol from the Mayo clinic with a few adaptations. It involves nitty-gritty screening, aggressive radiation and chemo, a staging laparotomy, and an agonizing wait for an appropriate liver.

    We were treated wonderfully at the University of Utah, and were impressed by their consistent advocacy on our behalf. I’ve not heard whether or not they treat recurring tumors. It’s definitely worth asking, though.

    God Bless,



    Transplant can be a successful treatment option for early stage cholangio. That being said, surgeons are very selective on who is a candidate for transplant. Mayo developed the protocol for selecting candidates, and many hospitals are now following this protocol when determining whether or not the patient is a candidate.

    The issue that you may run across is that most patients are fairly advanced by the time they are diagnosed with cholangio, and may not be a candidate for transplant. The organ bank is extremely reluctant to make a healthy liver available for a transplant if it’s just going to be subject to liver cancer cells still present in the patient’s body. Therefore, you can see why doctors are very selective on who can receive a transplant. If you are going to be looking into this further, I would encourage that you inquire whether transplant is an option for recurrent tumors.

    Good luck with the research, and if you have time, please share your findings here.


    haiminh, until others can respond you might want to use the search function. Simply, enter liver transplant, and you may be able to peruse this subject as it had been discussed in previous posts. So glad to hear that your Mum is feeling better.


    Hi all, today I’ve read a lot of articles regarding liver transplantation for cholangiocarcinoma. It is noted that liver transplantation has a great outcome for this kind of disease, with higher 5 years survival oportunity in compared with normal resection.
    Anyone here has experience on this treatment?? BTW, Mayo Clinic was considered as the best place for cancer treatment, is it right? If it is the case, maybe we have to research more and go there in case of reoccerence for my Mum’s case.
    Thank you so much for your advices

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