High rates of hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhotic patients with high liver cell proliferative activity

M. F. Donato, E. Arosio, E. Del Ninno, G. Ronchi, P. Lampertico, A. Morabito, M. R. Balestrieri, M. Colombo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The prevalence, risk factors, and clinical significance of high liver cell proliferative activity were investigated in 208 well-compensated cirrhotic patients (150 men; 50 years; 135 with chronic hepatitis C) who had been under prospective surveillance for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with annual abdominal ultrasound (US) and serum α-fetoprotein (AFP) determination. Immunostaining for proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) was employed to assess liver cell proliferative activity in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded liver specimens. The percentage of reactive nuclei was calculated by a computer-assisted image analysis system. The overall PCNA labeling index (LI) ranged from 0.1% to 12.5% (mean, 2.1%), being significantly higher in the 50 patients who developed HCC during 88 ± 42 months of follow-up than in the 158 patients who remained cancer-free (3.6% ± 2.4% vs. 1.6% ± 1.5%; P <.0001). By receiver operating curve (ROC), a 2.0% cut-off value of PCNA-LI discriminated between patients at high and low risk for developing cancer. By multivariate analysis, high histologic grading scores and gender were associated to PCNA LI >2.0%. The yearly incidence of HCC was 5.2% for the 80 patients with PCNA-LI > 2.0% compared with 1.1% for the 128 with low PCNA-LI (relative risk, 4.90; 95% CI, 2.63-9.55). By multivariate analysis, PCNA-LI >2.0% was the strongest independent predictor of cancer (hazard ratio, 5.49; 95% CI, 2.90-10.37). Overall, survival was significantly lower in patients with high liver cell proliferative activity rates than in those with low proliferative rates (10% vs. 75%; P <.0001). In conclusion, development of HCC in patients with compensated cirrhosis seems to be reliably predicted by liver cell proliferation status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-528
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


Dive into the research topics of 'High rates of hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhotic patients with high liver cell proliferative activity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this