Expression of cancer testis antigens in tumor-adjacent normal liver is associated with post-resection recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma

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Abstract

High recurrence rates after resection of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with curative intent impair clinical outcomes of HCC. Cancer/testis antigens (CTAs) are suitable targets for cancer immunotherapy if selectively expressed in tumor cells. The aims were to identify CTAs that are frequently and selectively expressed in HCC-tumors, and to investigate whether CTAs could serve as biomarkers for occult metastasis. Tumor and paired tumor-free liver (TFL) tissues of HCC-patients and healthy tissues were assessed for mRNA expression of 49 CTAs by RT-qPCR and protein expression of five CTAs by immunohistochemistry. Twelve CTA-mRNAs were expressed in ≥10% of HCC-tumors and not in healthy tissues except testis. In tumors, mRNA and protein of ≥ 1 CTA was expressed in 78% and 71% of HCC-patients, respectively. In TFL, CTA mRNA and protein was found in 45% and 30% of HCC-patients, respectively. Interestingly, CTA-expression in TFL was an independent negative prognostic factor for post-resection HCC-recurrence and survival. We established a panel of 12 testis-restricted CTAs expressed in tumors of most HCC-patients. The increased risk of HCC-recurrence in patients with CTA expression in TFL, suggests that CTA-expressing (pre-)malignant cells may be a source of HCC-recurrence, reflecting the relevance of targeting these to prevent HCC-recurrence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2499
JournalCancers
Volume13
Issue number10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2021

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