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Genetic and epigenetic characteristics of human multiple hepatocellular carcinoma

Kazuya Taniguchi1, Terumasa Yamada2, Yo Sasaki2 and Kikuya Kato1*

Author Affiliations

1 Research Institute, Osaka Medical Center for Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases, 1-3-3 Nakamichi, Higashinari-ku, Osaka, 537-8511, Japan

2 Department of Surgery, Osaka Medical Center for Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases, 1-3-3 Nakamichi, Higashinari-ku, Osaka, 537-8511, Japan

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:530  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-530

Published: 6 October 2010



Multiple carcinogenesis is one of the major characteristics of human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The history of multiple tumors, that is, whether they derive from a common precancerous or cancerous ancestor or individually from hepatocytes, is a major clinical issue. Multiple HCC is clinically classified as either intratumor metastasis (IM) or multicentric carcinogenesis (MC). Molecular markers that differentiate IM and MC are of interest to clinical practitioners because the clinical diagnoses of IM and MC often lead to different therapies.


We analyzed 30 multiple tumors from 15 patients for somatic mutations of cancer-related genes, chromosomal aberrations, and promoter methylation of tumor suppressor genes using techniques such as high-resolution melting, array-comparative genomic hybridization (CGH), and quantitative methylation-specific PCR.


Somatic mutations were found in TP53 and CTNNB1 but not in CDKN2A or KRAS. Tumors from the same patient did not share the same mutations. Array-CGH analysis revealed variations in the number of chromosomal aberrations, and the detection of common aberrations in tumors from the same patient was found to depend on the total number of chromosomal aberrations. A promoter methylation analysis of genes revealed dense methylation in HCC but not in the adjacent non-tumor tissue. The correlation coefficients (r) of methylation patterns between tumors from the same patient were more similar than those between tumors from different patients. In total, 47% of tumor samples from the same patients had an r ≥ 0.8, whereas, in contrast, only 18% of tumor samples from different patients had an r ≥ 0.8 (p = 0.01). All IM cases were highly similar; that is, r ≥ 0.8 (p = 0.025).


The overall scarcity of common somatic mutations and chromosomal aberrations suggests that biological IM is likely to be rare. Tumors from the same patient had a methylation pattern that was more similar than those from different patients. As all clinical IM cases exhibited high similarity, the methylation pattern may be applicable to support the clinical diagnosis of IM and MC.