Liver resection offers the only chance of cure in patients with a variety of primary and secondary liver tumors. For breast cancer, the natural history of this condition is poorly defined and the management remains controversial. Most physicians view liver metastases from breast cancer with resignation or attempt palliation with hormones and chemotherapy. Proper patient selection is crucial to ensure favorable long-term results. Although results of hepatic resection for metastatic colorectal cancer have been reported extensively, the experience with liver resection of metastases from breast cancer is limited. In 1991, the first series reporting hepatectomy for breast cancer patients was published.
A large series by Adam et al. reported the experience of 41 French centers regarding liver resection for noncolorectal, nonendocrine liver metastases. Among the 1452 patients who were studied, 454 (32%) were breast cancer patients. Mean age was 52 years (range 27–80 years). Most patients received adjuvant chemotherapy (58%), as few were downstaged by neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Delay between the treatment of the primary breast tumor and metastases was 54 months, with metachronous metastases in more than 90% of cases. There was a single metastasis in 56% of cases and less than three metastases in 84%. Only 8% were nonresectable. Most patients (77% of cases) underwent anatomical major resections (>3 segments). Negative margins were obtained in 82% of cases. Operative mortality was 0.2% during the 2 months following surgery. Fewer than 10% of the patients developed a local or systemic complication. With a median follow-up of 31 months, the overall survival was 41% at 5 years and 22% at 10 years, with a median of 45 months. Five- and 10-year recurrencefree survival rates were 14% and 10%, respectively.
Poor survival was associated with four factors determined by multivariate analysis: time to metastases, extrahepatic location, progression under chemotherapy treatment, and incomplete resection. At the UTMDACC, breast cancer patients who present with isolated synchronous liver metastases are treated initially with systemic chemotherapy. In responders,
hepatic resection is only contemplated if no other disease becomes evident during initial systemic treatment. Most candidates for hepatic resection undergo treatment for metachronous disease and only undergo resection for metastatic disease confined to the liver.