Background & aims: Malignant transformation of hepatocellular adenoma (MT-HCA) may occur in up to 5% of tumours. However, the prognostic value of this event remains poorly described. In this study, we aimed to analyse the long-term outcomes of patients undergoing liver resection (LR) for MT-HCA compared to those of patients resected for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) occurring on normal liver parenchyma (NP-HCC).

Methods: This single-centre retrospective study included all patients who underwent LR for MT-HCA at Beaujon Hospital between 2001 and 2019. MT-HCAs were classified as small foci of malignant transformation HCA (SF-HCA) and as malignant HCA (M-HCA) in cases of predominant HCC foci. Recurrence-free survival (RFS) of MT-HCA was compared with that of NP-HCC after propensity score matching.

Results: Forty patients (24 men, 16 women) underwent LR for MT-HCA, including 23 with SF-HCA and 17 with M-HCA. Of these cases, 16/40 (40%) had β-catenin mutations, 19/40 (47.5%) were inflammatory, 1 was HNF1α-mutated HCA and 4 (10%) were unclassified HCA. Microvascular invasion (12% vs. 0%, p = 0.091) and satellite nodules (25% vs. 4%, p = 0.028) were more frequently observed in M-HCA than in SF-HCA. After a median follow-up of 67 months, 10 (25%) patients with MT-HCA had tumour recurrence, including 9 with M-HCA and 1 with SF-HCA (p = 0.007). M-HCA was linked to significantly poorer 1-, 3-, 5- and 10-year RFS rates than SF-HCA (76%, 63%, 39%, 37% vs. 100%, 100%, 100%, 91%, p = 0.003). Multivariate analysis showed that SF-HCA was independently associated with improved RFS (hazard ratio 0.064; 95% CI 0.008-0.519; p = 0.01). After propensity score matching, NP-HCC was associated with significantly poorer 1-, 3-, 5- and 10-year RFS rates than MT-HCA (p = 0.01).

Conclusions: HCA with malignant transformation yields a better long-term prognosis than NP-HCC. Among MT-HCA, SF-HCA is associated with a better prognosis than M-HCA.

Lay summary: The prognostic relevance of malignant transformation of hepatocellular adenoma (HCA) remains unknown. Thus, the aim of our study was to compare the outcomes of patients undergoing liver resection for malignant transformation to those of patients undergoing liver resection for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The main long-term risk after resection for carcinoma is recurrence. In this study, 10/40 patients with malignant transformation of HCA relapsed after resection and we identified age >55 years, presence of satellite nodes, and microvascular invasion as risk factors for long-term recurrence. Compared to patients with HCC, patients who underwent liver resection for HCA with malignant transformation had better long-term survival.