The Landscape of Cell-Free HBV Integrations and Mutations in Cirrhosis and Hepatocellular Carcinoma Patients

Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Jul 1;27(13):3772-3783. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-21-0002. Epub 2021 May 4.


Purpose: Intratumoral hepatitis B virus (HBV) integrations and mutations are related to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) progression. Circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) has shown itself as a powerful noninvasive biomarker for cancer. However, the HBV integration and mutation landscape on cfDNA remains unclear.

Experimental design: A cSMART (Circulating Single-Molecule Amplification and Resequencing Technology)-based method (SIM) was developed to simultaneously investigate HBV integration and mutation landscapes on cfDNA with HBV-specific primers covering the whole HBV genome. Patients with HCC (n = 481) and liver cirrhosis (LC; n = 517) were recruited in the study.

Results: A total of 6,861 integration breakpoints including TERT and KMT2B were discovered in HCC cfDNA, more than in LC. The concentration of circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) was positively correlated with the detection rate of these integration hotspots and total HBV integration events in cfDNA. To track the origin of HBV integrations in cfDNA, whole-genome sequencing (WGS) was performed on their paired tumor tissues. The paired comparison of WGS data from tumor tissues and SIM data from cfDNA confirmed most recurrent integration events in cfDNA originated from tumor tissue. The mutational landscape across the whole HBV genome was first generated for both HBV genotype C and B. A region from nt1100 to nt1500 containing multiple HCC risk mutation sites (OR > 1) was identified as a potential HCC-related mutational hot zone.

Conclusions: Our study provides an in-depth delineation of HBV integration/mutation landscapes at cfDNA level and did a comparative analysis with their paired tissues. These findings shed light on the possibilities of noninvasive detection of virus insertion/mutation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / blood*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / virology*
  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids / blood*
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B virus / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis / blood*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / virology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / blood*
  • Liver Neoplasms / virology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation*
  • Young Adult


  • Cell-Free Nucleic Acids