Summary Hepatocellular carcinoma is the sixth most prevalent cancer and the third most frequent cause of cancer-related death. Patients with cirrhosis are at highest risk of developing this malignant disease, and ultrasonography every 6 months is recommended. Surveillance with ultrasonography allows diagnosis at early stages when the tumour might be curable by resection, liver transplantation, or ablation, and 5-year survival higher than 50% can be achieved. Patients with small solitary tumours and very well preserved liver function are the best candidates for surgical resection. Liver transplantation is most beneficial for individuals who are not good candidates for resection, especially those within Milano criteria (solitary tumour ≤5 cm and up to three nodules ≤3 cm). Donor shortage greatly limits its applicability. Percutaneous ablation is the most frequently used treatment but its effectiveness is limited by tumour size and localisation. In asymptomatic patients with multifocal disease without vascular invasion or extrahepatic spread not amenable to curative treatments, chemoembolisation can provide survival benefit. Findings of randomised trials of sorafenib have shown survival benefits for individuals with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma, suggesting that molecular-targeted therapies could be effective in this chemoresistant cancer. Research is active in the area of pathogenesis and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.
Summary Hepatitis B virus (HBV) contributes to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development through direct and indirect mechanisms. HBV DNA integration into the host genome occurs at early steps of clonal tumor expansion and induces both genomic instability and direct insertional mutagenesis of diverse cancer-related genes. Prolonged expression of the viral regulatory protein HBx and/or altered versions of the preS/S envelope proteins dysregulates cell transcription and proliferation control and sensitizes liver cells to carcinogenic factors. Accumulation of preS1 large envelope proteins and/or preS2/S mutant proteins activates the unfold proteins response, that can contribute to hepatocyte transformation. Epigenetic changes targeting the expression of tumor suppressor genes occur early in the development of HCC. A major role is played by the HBV protein, HBx, which is recruited on cellular chromatin and modulates chromatin dynamics at specific gene loci. Compared with tumors associated with other risk factors, HBV-related tumors have a higher rate of chromosomal alterations, p53 inactivation by mutations and overexpression of fetal liver/hepatic progenitor cells genes. The WNT/β-catenin pathway is also often activated but HBV-related tumors display a low rate of activating β-catenin mutations. HBV-related HCCs may arise on non-cirrhotic livers, further supporting the notion that HBV plays a direct role in liver transformation by triggering both common and etiology specific oncogenic pathways in addition to stimulating the host immune response and driving liver chronic necro-inflammation.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a highly lethal cancer, with increasing worldwide incidence, that is mainly associated with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) and/or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. There are few effective treatments partly because the cell- and molecular-based mechanisms that contribute to the pathogenesis of this tumour type are poorly understood. This Review outlines pathogenic mechanisms that seem to be common to both viruses and which suggest innovative approaches to the prevention and treatment of HCC.
Survival of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains poor, which is largely attributed to active angiogenesis. However, the mechanisms underlying angiogenesis in HCC remain to be discovered. In this study, we found that long noncoding RNA associated with microvascular invasion in HCC (lncRNA MVIH) (lncRNA associated with microvascular invasion in HCC) was generally overexpressed in HCC. In a cohort of 215 HCC patients, the overexpression of MVIH was associated with frequent microvascular invasion ( P = 0.016) and a higher tumor node metastasis stage ( P = 0.009) as well as decreased recurrence‐free survival (RFS) ( P < 0.001) and overall survival ( P = 0.007). Moreover, the up‐regulation of MVIH served as an independent risk factor to predict poor RFS. We also found that MVIH could promote tumor growth and intrahepatic metastasis by activating angiogenesis in mouse models. Subsequent investigations indicated that MVIH could activate tumor‐inducing angiogenesis by inhibiting the secretion of phosphoglycerate kinase 1 (PGK1). Additionally, in 65 HCC samples, MVIH expression was inversely correlated with the serum level of PGK1 and positively correlated with the microvessel density. Conclusion : Deregulation of lncRNA MVIH is a predictor for poor RFS of HCC patients after hepatectomy and could be utilized as a potential target for new adjuvant therapies against active angiogenesis. (H EPATOLOGY 2012;56:2142–2153)
Background & Aims In approximately 70% of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) treated by resection or ablation, disease recurs within 5 years. Although gene expression signatures have been associated with outcome, there is no method to predict recurrence based on combined clinical, pathology, and genomic data (from tumor and cirrhotic tissue). We evaluated gene expression signatures associated with outcome in a large cohort of patients with early stage (Barcelona–Clinic Liver Cancer 0/A), single-nodule HCC and heterogeneity of signatures within tumor tissues. Methods We assessed 287 HCC patients undergoing resection and tested genome-wide expression platforms using tumor (n = 287) and adjacent nontumor, cirrhotic tissue (n = 226). We evaluated gene expression signatures with reported prognostic ability generated from tumor or cirrhotic tissue in 18 and 4 reports, respectively. In 15 additional patients, we profiled samples from the center and periphery of the tumor, to determine stability of signatures. Data analysis included Cox modeling and random survival forests to identify independent predictors of tumor recurrence. Results Gene expression signatures that were associated with aggressive HCC were clustered, as well as those associated with tumors of progenitor cell origin and those from nontumor, adjacent, cirrhotic tissues. On multivariate analysis, the tumor-associated signature G3-proliferation (hazard ratio [HR], 1.75; P = .003) and an adjacent poor-survival signature (HR, 1.74; P = .004) were independent predictors of HCC recurrence, along with satellites (HR, 1.66; P = .04). Samples from different sites in the same tumor nodule were reproducibly classified. Conclusions We developed a composite prognostic model for HCC recurrence, based on gene expression patterns in tumor and adjacent tissues. These signatures predict early and overall recurrence in patients with HCC, and complement findings from clinical and pathology analyses.
The role of TGF-β-induced epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in cancer cell dissemination is well established, but the involvement of lncRNAs in TGF-β signaling is still unknown. In this study, we observed that the lncRNA-activated by TGF-β (lncRNA-ATB) was upregulated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) metastases and associated with poor prognosis. lncRNA-ATB upregulated ZEB1 and ZEB2 by competitively binding the miR-200 family and then induced EMT and invasion. In addition, lncRNA-ATB promoted organ colonization of disseminated tumor cells by binding IL-11 mRNA, autocrine induction of IL-11, and triggering STAT3 signaling. Globally, lncRNA-ATB promotes the invasion-metastasis cascade. Thus, these findings suggest that lncRNA-ATB, a mediator of TGF-β signaling, could predispose HCC patients to metastases and may serve as a potential target for antimetastatic therapies. Yuan et al. find that lncRNA-activated by TGF-β (lncRNA-ATB) promotes EMT and metastasis in hepatocellular carcinoma by acting as a competing endogenous RNA against the miR-200 family to increase ZEB1 and ZEB2 expression and by interacting with IL-11 mRNA to induce IL-11 expression, which activates STAT3.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common malignancy worldwide with a poor prognosis and limited therapeutic options. To aid the development of novel immunological interventions, we studied the breadth, frequency, and tumor‐infiltration of naturally occurring CD8 + T‐cell responses targeting several tumor‐associated antigens (TAA). We used overlapping peptides spanning the entire alpha‐fetoprotein (AFP), glypican‐3 (GPC‐3), melanoma‐associated gene‐A1 (MAGE‐A1) and New York‐esophageal squamous cell carcinoma‐1 (NY‐ESO‐1) proteins and major‐histocompatibility‐complex‐class‐I‐tetramers specific for epitopes of MAGE‐A1 and NY‐ESO‐1 to analyze TAA‐specific CD8 + T‐cell responses in a large cohort of HCC patients. After nonspecific expansion in vitro , we detected interferon‐γ (IFN‐γ)‐producing CD8 + T cells specific for all four TAA in the periphery as well as in liver and tumor tissue. These CD8 + T‐cell responses displayed clear immunodominance patterns within each TAA, but no consistent hierarchy was observed between different TAA. Importantly, the response breadth was highest in early‐stage HCC and associated with patient survival. After antigen‐specific expansion, TAA‐specific CD8 + T cells were detectable by tetramer staining but impaired in their ability to produce IFN‐γ. Furthermore, regulatory T cells (T reg ) were increased in HCC lesions. Depletion of T reg from cultures improved TAA‐specific CD8 + T‐cell proliferation but did not restore IFN‐γ‐production. Conclusion : Naturally occurring TAA‐specific CD8 + T‐cell responses are present in patients with HCC and therefore constitute part of the normal T‐cell repertoire. Moreover, the presence of these responses correlates with patient survival. However, the observation of impaired IFN‐γ production suggests that the efficacy of such responses is functionally limited. These findings support the development of strategies that aim to enhance the total TAA‐specific CD8 + T‐cell response by therapeutic boosting and/or specificity diversification. However, further research will be required to help unlock the full potential of TAA‐specific CD8 + T‐cell responses. (H epatology 2014;59:1415‐1426)
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the sixth most common cancer globally and the second most lethal cancer worldwide. This SnapShot depicts the molecular and morphological features of this heterogeneous disease, as well as outlines associated prognostic factors, current and emerging therapies, and challenges ahead.
Summary Background For patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma, sorafenib is the only approved drug worldwide, and outcomes remain poor. We aimed to assess the safety and efficacy of nivolumab, a programmed cell death protein-1 (PD-1) immune checkpoint inhibitor, in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma with or without chronic viral hepatitis. Methods We did a phase 1/2, open-label, non-comparative, dose escalation and expansion trial (CheckMate 040) of nivolumab in adults (≥18 years) with histologically confirmed advanced hepatocellular carcinoma with or without hepatitis C or B (HCV or HBV) infection. Previous sorafenib treatment was allowed. A dose-escalation phase was conducted at seven hospitals or academic centres in four countries or territories (USA, Spain, Hong Kong, and Singapore) and a dose-expansion phase was conducted at an additional 39 sites in 11 countries (Canada, UK, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan). At screening, eligible patients had Child-Pugh scores of 7 or less (Child-Pugh A or B7) for the dose-escalation phase and 6 or less (Child-Pugh A) for the dose-expansion phase, and an Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 1 or less. Patients with HBV infection had to be receiving effective antiviral therapy (viral load <100 IU/mL); antiviral therapy was not required for patients with HCV infection. We excluded patients previously treated with an agent targeting T-cell costimulation or checkpoint pathways. Patients received intravenous nivolumab 0·1–10 mg/kg every 2 weeks in the dose-escalation phase (3+3 design). Nivolumab 3 mg/kg was given every 2 weeks in the dose-expansion phase to patients in four cohorts: sorafenib untreated or intolerant without viral hepatitis, sorafenib progressor without viral hepatitis, HCV infected, and HBV infected. Primary endpoints were safety and tolerability for the escalation phase and objective response rate (Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumors version 1.1) for the expansion phase. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov , number NCT01658878. Findings Between Nov 26, 2012, and Aug 8, 2016, 262 eligible patients were treated (48 patients in the dose-escalation phase and 214 in the dose-expansion phase). 202 (77%) of 262 patients have completed treatment and follow-up is ongoing. During dose escalation, nivolumab showed a manageable safety profile, including acceptable tolerability. In this phase, 46 (96%) of 48 patients discontinued treatment, 42 (88%) due to disease progression. Incidence of treatment-related adverse events did not seem to be associated with dose and no maximum tolerated dose was reached. 12 (25%) of 48 patients had grade 3/4 treatment-related adverse events. Three (6%) patients had treatment-related serious adverse events (pemphigoid, adrenal insufficiency, liver disorder). 30 (63%) of 48 patients in the dose-escalation phase died (not determined to be related to nivolumab therapy). Nivolumab 3 mg/kg was chosen for dose expansion. The objective response rate was 20% (95% CI 15–26) in patients treated with nivolumab 3 mg/kg in the dose-expansion phase and 15% (95% CI 6–28) in the dose-escalation phase. Interpretation Nivolumab had a manageable safety profile and no new signals were observed in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma. Durable objective responses show the potential of nivolumab for treatment of advanced hepatocellular carcinoma. Funding Bristol-Myers Squibb.