Objectives: In this preliminary study, we examined whether imaging-based phenotypes are associated with reported predictive gene signatures in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Methods: Thirty-eight patients (M/F 30/8, mean age 61 years) who underwent pre-operative CT or MR imaging before surgery as well as transcriptome profiling were included in this IRB-approved single-centre retrospective study. Eleven qualitative and four quantitative imaging traits (size, enhancement ratios, wash-out ratio, tumour-to-liver contrast ratios) were assessed by three observers and were correlated with 13 previously reported HCC gene signatures using logistic regression analysis.
Results: Thirty-nine HCC tumours (mean size 5.7 ± 3.2 cm) were assessed. Significant positive associations were observed between certain imaging traits and gene signatures of aggressive HCC phenotype (G3-Boyault, Proliferation-Chiang profiles, CK19-Villanueva, S1/S2-Hoshida) with odds ratios ranging from 4.44-12.73 (P <0.045). Infiltrative pattern at imaging was significantly associated with signatures of microvascular invasion and aggressive phenotype. Significant but weak associations were also observed between each enhancement ratio and tumour-to-liver contrast ratios and certain gene expression profiles.
Conclusions: This preliminary study demonstrates a correlation between phenotypic imaging traits with gene signatures of aggressive HCC, which warrants further prospective validation to establish imaging-based surrogate markers of molecular phenotypes in HCC.
Key points: • There are associations between imaging and gene signatures of aggressive hepatocellular carcinoma. • Infiltrative type is associated with gene signatures of microvascular invasion and aggressiveness. • Infiltrative type may be a surrogate marker of microvascular invasion gene signature.
Keywords: Biomarkers; Computed tomography; Genomics; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Magnetic resonance imaging.