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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 142  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 391-398

Cancer stem cells in hepatocellular carcinoma - an immunohistochemical study with histopathological association


Department of Pathology, Christian Medical College, Vellore, India

Correspondence Address:
Banumathi Ramakrishna
Department of Pathology, Christian Medical College, Vellore
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0971-5916.169195

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Background & objectives: Cancer stem cells (CSCs) may be responsible for tumour recurrence and resistance to chemotherapy in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This study was carried out to evaluate the association between histological parameters and liver CSCs (LCSC) in HCC, and to compare distribution of liver CSCs in HCC associated with and without hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Methods: Seventy nine tumours (49 surgical resections from 46 patients, and 30 from autopsy) were reviewed. Immunohistochemical staining for the LCSC marker EpCAM (epithelial cell adhesion molecule), liver progenitor cell (LPC) markers CK19 (cytokeratin 19) and neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) were performed and were associated with histological features of tumour behaviour. Results: Thirty three tumours (41.8%) showed positive staining for EpCAM. CK19 and NCAM expression were seen in 26 (32.9%) and four (5.1%) tumours, respectively. The expression of EpCAM and CK19 was significantly associated with each other ( P<0.001). EpCAM expression was significantly associated with clinical and histological features indicating aggressive tumour behaviour, including younger age of onset, higher serum alpha foetoprotein (AFP) levels, tumour cell dedifferentiation, increased mitotic activity, and vascular invasiveness. There was no significant difference in expression of EpCAM, CK19 and NCAM between HBV positive and negative HCC. Interpretation & conclusions:The LCSC marker EpCAM was expressed in less than half of HCC, was independent of HBV aetiology, and was strongly associated with clinical and histological features of aggressive tumour behaviour. Positive staining for CK19 suggests a possible LPC origin of the EpCAM positive HCCs.


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