Small hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) usually arise in cirrhosis, often with associated thrombocytopenia. Many patients with large HCCs have normal blood platelet counts. In this review, we compare parameter and phenotype patterns of patients with small (≤3 cm) and larger HCCs. A retrospective analysis was undertaken of a 4,139-patient HCC database to compare patient demographics, and liver and tumor characteristics associated with small and large HCCs, especially with respect to platelet counts. We found that patients with larger HCCs had more tumor nodules and portal vein thrombosis (PVT) positivity, and had higher blood alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), bilirubin, and platelet counts. In patients with larger tumors and normal platelets (43.7% of the cohort), tumors were larger and AFP levels were higher, with lower bilirubin and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels than in patients with larger tumors and thrombocytopenia (17.5%). A parsimonious multinomial regression model showed a high odds ratio for AFP and platelets for tumors > cm with PVT. We conclude that platelet levels are associated with distinct large HCC phenotypes.
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