Background & Aims: 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. Methods: 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. Results: 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). Conclusions: 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1325-1331
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Diagnosis
  • Gene-expression signature
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Liver transplantation
  • Prediction
  • Surgical resection
  • Vascular invasion


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