Vessels Encapsulating Tumor Clusters (VETC) Is a Powerful Predictor of Aggressive Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Salvatore Lorenzo Renne, Sarah Allegra, Noemi Rudini, Hirohisa Yano, Matteo Donadon, Luca Viganò, Jun Akiba, Hye Sun Lee, Hyungjin Rhee, Young Nyun Park, Massimo Roncalli, Luca Di Tommaso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We investigated the clinical significance of a vascular growth pattern of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the vessels that encapsulate tumor clusters (VETC), previously linked to HCC metastatic dissemination. VETC was assessed in a large multi-institutional cohort of 541 resected HCCs from Italy, Korea and Japan, and matched against a full spectrum of clinical and pathological variables. The VETC phenotype (defined as ≥ 55% tumor area by CD34 immunostaining) was easily reproducible and reliably detectable in whole sections and small-sized tissues of tissue microarray. VETC HCCs represented 18.9% of the whole series, the lowest proportion occurring in the cohort with smallest tumors (8.7%, Japanese series). VETC was significantly associated with several clinical and pathological features such as high alfa-fetoprotein (AFP) level, tumor size greater than 5 cm, poor differentiation, macrotrabecular pattern, less compact pattern, less inflammatory infiltrates, and frequent microvascular invasion. VETC was associated with early recurrence (hazard ratio [HR]: 1.52 [1.06-2.19], P = 0.023), disease-free survival (HR: 1.66 [1.21-2.27], P = 0.002), and overall survival (HR: 2.26 [1.37-3.72], P = 0.001) at multivariable analysis. VETC affected the survival in HCC patients stratified for etiology (hepatitis C virus/hepatitis B virus), vascular invasion, and specific molecular phenotypes (β-catenin/GS+). This distinct vascular pattern was enriched in the recently reported macrotrabecular massive HCC subtype, which was seen in 7.8% (42 of 541) of patients and associated with high AFP levels and poor differentiation. Conclusion: The VETC pattern was found to be easily detectable in a consistent fraction of HCC and a powerful pathological finding affecting survival. This study suggests that the heterogeneous pattern of angiogenesis is involved in HCC behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-195
Number of pages13
JournalHepatology
Volume71
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

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