Another study also looks at transplant utility by showing the use of MELD exception points for hepatocellular carcinoma provides almost no survival benefit: K Berry, GN Ioannou. Gastroenterol 2015; 149: 669-80, editorial 531-34. The article states that the “survival benefit of patients with HCC was similar to that of patients without HCC who had the same actual MELD score…a much lower mean 5-year survival benefit was achieved by providing liver transplants to patients with HCC (0.12 years/patient) than patients without HCC (1.47 years/patient).”
How is this possible?
When patients are transplanted at lesser illness acuity, it takes longer to achieve a transplant benefit because they can live longer without a transplant. In essence, the survival clock starts ticking much later than the transplant date.
Why this is important (from editorial):
The proportion of patients undergoing liver transplantation for HCC has increased from “4.6% before the introduction of MELD exception to 16.5% currently.” And, “the results, put simply, suggest that allocating donor livers and performing liver transplantation in patients with HCC MELD exception points produces almost no survival benefit.”
My take: Liver allocation policies need to be modified. This study suggests that prioritizing HCC patients does not make much sense.