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J Hepatol. 2011 Dec;55(6):1325-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2011.02.034. Epub 2011 Apr 13.

Gene-expression signature of vascular invasion in hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Mount Sinai Liver Cancer Program, (Division of Liver Diseases, Department of Medicine, Surgical Oncology, Department of Surgery, Department of Pathology, Department of Preventive Medicine), Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA.



Vascular invasion is a major predictor of tumor recurrence after surgical treatments for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). While macroscopic vascular invasion can be detected by radiological techniques, pre-operative detection of microscopic vascular invasion, which complicates 30-40% of patients with early tumors, remains elusive.


A total of 214 patients with hepatocellular carcinoma who underwent resection were included in the study. By using genome-wide gene-expression profiling of 79 hepatitis C-related hepatocellular carcinoma samples (training set), a gene-expression signature associated with vascular invasion was defined. The signature was validated in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues obtained from an independent set of 135 patients with various etiologies.


A 35-gene signature of vascular invasion was defined in the training set, predicting vascular invasion with an accuracy of 69%. The signature was independently associated with the presence of vascular invasion (OR 3.38, 95% CI 1.48-7.71, p=0.003) along with tumor size (diameter greater than 3 cm, OR 2.66, 95% CI 1.17-6.05, p=0.02). In the validation set, the signature discarded the presence of vascular invasion with a negative predictive value of 0.77, and significantly improved the diagnostic power of tumor size alone (p=0.045).


The assessment of a gene-expression signature obtained from resected biopsied tumor specimens improved the diagnosis of vascular invasion beyond clinical variable-based prediction. The signature may aid in candidate selection for liver transplantation, and guide the design of clinical trials with experimental adjuvant therapies.

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