Currently, molecular markers are not used when determining the prognosis and treatment strategy for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In the present study, we proposed that the identification of common pro-oncogenic pathways in primary tumors (PT) and adjacent non-malignant tissues (AT) typically used to predict HCC patient risks may result in HCC biomarker discovery. We examined the genome-wide mRNA expression profiles of paired PT and AT samples from 321 HCC patients. The workflow integrated differentially expressed gene selection, gene ontology enrichment, computational classification, survival predictions, image analysis and experimental validation methods. We developed a 24-ribosomal gene-based HCC classifier (RGC), which is prognostically significant in both PT and AT. The RGC gene overexpression in PT was associated with a poor prognosis in the training (hazard ratio = 8.2, P = 9.4 × 10-6 ) and cross-cohort validation (hazard ratio = 2.63, P = 0.004) datasets. The multivariate survival analysis demonstrated the significant and independent prognostic value of the RGC. The RGC displayed a significant prognostic value in AT of the training (hazard ratio = 5.0, P = 0.03) and cross-validation (hazard ratio = 1.9, P = 0.03) HCC groups, confirming the accuracy and robustness of the RGC. Our experimental and bioinformatics analyses suggested a key role for c-MYC in the pro-oncogenic pattern of ribosomal biogenesis co-regulation in PT and AT. Microarray, quantitative RT-PCR and quantitative immunohistochemical studies of the PT showed that DKK1 in PT is the perspective biomarker for poor HCC outcomes. The common co-transcriptional pattern of ribosome biogenesis genes in PT and AT from HCC patients suggests a new scalable prognostic system, as supported by the model of tumor-like metabolic redirection/assimilation in non-malignant AT. The RGC, comprising 24 ribosomal genes, is introduced as a robust and reproducible prognostic model for stratifying HCC patient risks. The adjacent non-malignant liver tissue alone, or in combination with HCC tissue biopsy, could be an important target for developing predictive and monitoring strategies, as well as evidence-based therapeutic interventions, that aim to reduce the risk of post-surgery relapse in HCC patients.
Molecular Oncology, 8 Nov 2017, doi: 10.1002/1878-0261.12153
Date of acceptance