Combined hepatocellular and cholangiocarcinoma originating from the same clone: a pathomolecular evidence-based study

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BACKGROUND: Combined hepatocellular and cholangiocarcinoma (CHC) is a unique subtype of liver cancer comprising both hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC); however, its cellular origin remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to investigate the clinicopathologic features and the clonal relationship between HCC and ICC in 34 patients with CHC. METHODS: The clinicopathologic features and prognosis of the 34 CHC patients were compared with those of 29 patients with separated HCC and ICC (SHC). Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at 10 highly polymorphic microsatellite markers was detected in 16 CHC and 10 SHC tissues for determination of the clonal origin of CHC. Expression of hepatocyte markers [hepatocyte paraffin 1 (Hep Par 1) and glypican 3 (GPC3)] and cholangiocyte markers [cytokeratin (CK)7 and 19] in tumor tissues was examined by immuno histochemical analysis. RESULTS: In the 16 CHC specimens, the difference in LOH patterns between HCC and ICC was less than 30%, suggesting the same clonal origin of HCC and ICC. Consistent with this finding, immunohistochemical analysis revealed that hepatocyte markers (Hep Par 1 and GPC3) and cholangiocyte markers (CK7 and CK19) were simultaneously expressed in both the HCC and ICC components in 52.9% of CHC specimens, suggesting that the two components shared a similar phenotype with hepatic progenitor cells (HPCs). On the contrary, in all 10 SHC cases, the difference in LOH patterns between the HCC and ICC components was greater than 30%, suggesting different clonal origins of HCC and ICC. Overall survival and disease-free survival were shorter for patients with CHC than for patients with SHC (P < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that the HCC and ICC components of CHC may originate from the same clone, having the potential for dual-directional differentiation similar to HPCs. CHC tended to exhibit the biological behaviors of both HCC and ICC, which may enhance the infiltrative capacity of tumor cells, leading to poor clinical outcomes for patients with CHC.




Zhao, Q., Yu, W. L., Lu, X. Y., Dong, H., Gu, Y. J., Sheng, X., … Wu, M. C. (2016). Combined hepatocellular and cholangiocarcinoma originating from the same clone: a pathomolecular evidence-based study. Chinese Journal of Cancer, 35(1), 82.

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