Identification of prognostic biomarkers in hepatitis B virus-related hepatocellular carcinoma and stratification by integrative multi-omics analysis

Miao R, Luo H, Zhou H, Li G, Bu D, Yang X, Zhao X, Zhang H, Liu S, Zhong Y, Zou Z, Zhao Y, Yu K, He L, Sang X, Zhong S, Huang J, Wu Y, Miksad RA, Robson SC, Jiang C, Zhao Y, Zhao H. J Hepatol. 2014 Oct;61(4):840-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2014.05.025. PMID: 24859455

The differentiation of distinct multifocal hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC): multicentric disease vs. intrahepatic metastases, in which the management and prognosis varies substantively, remains problematic. We aim to stratify multifocal HCC and identify novel diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers by performing whole genome and transcriptome sequencing, as part of a multi-omics strategy.

A complete collection of tumour and somatic specimens (intrahepatic HCC lesions, matched non-cancerous liver tissue and blood) were obtained from representative patients with multifocal HCC exhibiting two distinct postsurgical courses. Whole-genome and transcriptome sequencing with genotyping were performed for each tissue specimen to contrast genomic alterations, including hepatitis B virus integrations, somatic mutations, copy number variations, and structural variations. We then constructed a phylogenetic tree to visualise individual tumour evolution and performed functional enrichment analyses on select differentially expressed genes to elucidate biological processes involved in multifocal HCC development. Multi-omics data were integrated with detailed clinicopathological information to identify HCC biomarkers, which were further validated using a large cohort of HCC patients (n = 174).

The multi-omics profiling and tumour biomarkers could successfully distinguish the two multifocal HCC types, while accurately predicting clonality and aggressiveness. The dual-specificity protein kinase TTK, which is a key mitotic checkpoint regulator with links to p53 signaling, was further shown to be a promising overall prognostic marker for HCC in the large patient cohort.

Comprehensive multi-omics characterisation of multifocal tumour evolution may improve clinical decision-making, facilitate personalised medicine, and expedite identification of novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets in HCC.