Hepatocellular carcinoma in children: hepatic resection and liver transplantation
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a rare malignancy in children and at the time of diagnosis up to 80% of pediatric HCC are unresectable due to large and multiple lesions. The majority of pediatric HCC occurs on a background of normal liver, and consequently the absence of concomitant chronic liver disease generally allows tolerating pre- and post-operative chemotherapy. Based on the large experiences of adult HCC and pediatric hepatoblastoma, in the last years a multidisciplinary aggressive treatment composed of surgical resection and chemotherapy (based on cisplatin and doxorubicin) has been proposed, improving patient outcomes and recurrence rate in children with HCC. However, the overall survival rate in children with HCC is not satisfactory yet; while the 5-year survival rate may achieve up to 70–80% in non-metastatic resectable HCC, it remains <20% in children with unresectable HCC. The mainstay of the pediatric HCC therapeutic strategy is the radical tumor resection, weather by hepatic resection or liver transplantation, nevertheless the best surgical approaches as well as the optimal neoadjuvant and adjuvant treatment are still under debate. Different strategies have been explored to convert unresectable HCC into resectable tumors by extending criteria for surgical treatment and/or associating multi-modal treatments, such as systemic and local-regional therapy, but universal recommendation needs to be defined yet. The purpose of this review is to outline the role of different surgical approaches, including hepatic resection and liver transplantation, in pediatric HCC with or without underlying chronic liver disease.