From clinical variables to multiomics analysis: a margin morphology-based gross classification system for hepatocellular carcinoma stratification

Gut. 2023 Nov;72(11):2149-2163. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2023-330461. Epub 2023 Aug 7.


Objective: Selecting interventions for patients with solitary hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains a challenge. Despite gross classification being proposed as a potential prognostic predictor, its widespread use has been restricted due to inadequate studies with sufficient patient numbers and the lack of established mechanisms. We sought to investigate the prognostic impacts on patients with HCC of different gross subtypes and assess their corresponding molecular landscapes.

Design: A prospective cohort of 400 patients who underwent hepatic resection for solitary HCC was reviewed and analysed and gross classification was assessed. Multiomics analyses were performed on tumours and non-tumour tissues from 49 patients to investigate the mechanisms underlying gross classification. Inverse probability of treatment weight (IPTW) was used to control for confounding factors.

Results: Overall 3-year survival rates varied significantly among the four gross subtypes (type I: 91%, type II: 80%, type III: 74.6%, type IV: 38.8%). Type IV was found to be independently associated with poor prognosis in both the entire cohort and the IPTW cohort. The four gross subtypes exhibited three distinct transcriptional modules. Particularly, type IV tumours exhibited increased angiogenesis and immune score as well as decreased metabolic pathways, together with highest frequency of TP53 mutations. Patients with type IV HCC may benefit from adjuvant intra-arterial therapy other than the other three subtypes. Accordingly, a modified trichotomous margin morphological gross classification was established.

Conclusion: Different gross types of HCC showed significantly different prognosis and molecular characteristics. Gross classification may aid in development of precise individualised diagnosis and treatment strategies for HCC.

Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma; surgical oncology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Multiomics
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies