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Mod Pathol. 2013 Dec;26(12):1586-93. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2013.68. Epub 2013 May 3.

Chromophobe hepatocellular carcinoma with abrupt anaplasia: a proposal for a new subtype of hepatocellular carcinoma with unique morphological and molecular features.

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Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Hepatocellular carcinomas exhibit heterogeneous morphologies by routine light microscopy. Although some morphologies represent insignificant variations in growth patterns, others may represent unrecognized subtypes of hepatocellular carcinoma. Identification of these subtypes could lead to separation of hepatocellular carcinomas into discrete groups with unique underlying genetic changes, prognosis, or therapeutic responses. In order to identify potential subtypes, two pathologists independently screened a cohort of 219 unselected hepatocellular carcinoma resection specimens and divided cases into potential subtypes. One of these promising candidate subtypes was further evaluated using histological and molecular techniques. This subtype was characterized by a unique and consistent set of histological features: smooth chromophobic cytoplasm, abrupt focal nuclear anaplasia (small clusters of tumor cells with marked nuclear anaplasia in a background of tumor cells with bland nuclear cytology), and scattered microscopic pseudocysts--we designate this variant as 'chromophobe hepatocellular carcinoma with abrupt anaplasia'. Thirteen cases were identified (6% of all hepatocellular carcinomas), including 6 men and 7 women with an average age of 61 years. Six cases occurred in cirrhotic livers. Serum AFP was elevated in 6 out of 10 cases. There were a variety of underlying liver diseases, but cases were enrichment for chronic hepatitis B, P=0.006. Interestingly, at the molecular level, this variant was strongly associated with the alternative lengthening of telomere (ALT) phenotype by telomere FISH. ALT is a telomerase-independent mechanism of telomere maintenance and is found in approximately 8% of unselected hepatocellular carcinomas. In contrast, 11/12 (92%) of the cases of chromophobe hepatocellular carcinoma with abrupt anaplasia were ALT-positive. In summary, we propose that chromophobe hepatocellular carcinoma with abrupt anaplasia represents a new subtype of hepatocellular carcinoma with unique morphological and molecular features.

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