Molecular pathology of hepatic neoplasms: classification and clinical significance

Patholog Res Int. 2011 Apr 7;2011:403929. doi: 10.4061/2011/403929.

Abstract

Recent technological advances have enabled investigators to characterize the molecular genetics and genomics of hepatic neoplasia in remarkable detail. From these studies, an increasing number of molecular markers are being identified that correlate with clinically important tumor phenotypes. This paper discusses current knowledge relevant to the molecular classification of epithelial primary hepatic tumors that arise in adults, including focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH), hepatocellular adenoma (HCA), hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), cholangiocarcinoma (CC), and combined HCC-CC. Genetic analysis has defined molecular subtypes of HCA that are clinicopathologically distinct and can be distinguished through immunohistochemistry. Gene expression studies have identified molecular signatures of progression from dysplastic nodules (DNs) to early HCC in cirrhosis. Analyses of the mutational spectra, chromosomal aberrations and instability, transcriptomics, and microRNA profiles of HCC have revealed the existence of biologically distinct subtypes of this common malignancy, with prognostic implications. Molecular characterization of biliary and hepatic progenitor cell phenotypes in liver cancer has shed new light on the histogenesis of these tumors and has focused attention on novel therapeutic targets. In coming years, the molecular classification of hepatic neoplasms will be increasingly valuable for guiding patient care, as targeted therapies for liver cancer are developed and brought into clinical practice.