Genomic and transcriptional heterogeneity of multifocal hepatocellular carcinoma

Xu, LX; He, MH; Dai, ZH; Yu, J; Wang, JG; Li, XC; Jiang, BB; Ke, ZF; Su, TH; Peng, ZW; Guo, Y; Chen, ZB; Chen, SL; Peng, S; Kuang, M

Peng, S (reprint author), Sun Yat Sen Univ, Affiliated Hosp 1, Dept Gastroenterol & Hepatol, Clin Trials Unit, 58 Zhong Shan Rd 2, Guangzhou 510080, Guangdong, Peoples R China.; Kuang, M (reprint author), Sun Yat Sen Univ, Affiliated Hosp 1, Dept Liver Su

ANNALS OF ONCOLOGY, 2019; 30 (6): 990

Abstract

Background Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) often presents with multiple nodules within the liver, with limited effective interventions. The high genetic heterogeneity of HCC might be the major cause of treatment failure. We aimed to characterize genomic heterogeneity, infer clonal evolution, investigate RNA expression pattern and explore tumour immune microenvironment profile of multifocal HCC. Patients and methods Whole-exome sequencing and RNA sequencing were carried out in 34 tumours and 6 adjacent normal liver tissue samples from 6 multifocal HCC patients. Protein expression of Ki67, AFP, P53, Survivin and CD8 was detected by immunohistochemistry. Fluorescence in situ hybridization was carried out to validate the amplification status of sorafenib-targeted genes. Results We deciphered genomic and transcriptional heterogeneity among tumours in each multifocal HCC patient including mutational profiles, copy number alterations, tumour evolutionary trajectory and tumour immune microenvironment profiles. Of note, sorafenib-targeted alterations were identified in the trunk of phylogenetic tree in only one out of the six patients, which may explain the relative low treatment response rate to sorafenib in clinical practice. Moreover, we demonstrated RNA expression patterns and tumour immune microenvironment profiles of all nodules. We found that RNA expression pattern was associated with Edmondson-Steiner grading. Based on the differential expression of 66 reported immune markers, unsupervised hierarchical clustering analysis of 34 nodules identified immune subsets: one low expression cluster with seven nodules and one high expression cluster with 11 nodules. CD8+ T cells were more enriched in nodules of the high expression cluster. Conclusions Our study provided a detailed view of genomic and transcriptional heterogeneity, clonal evolution and immune infiltration of multifocal HCC. The heterogeneity of druggable targets and immune landscape might help interpret the clinical responsiveness to targeted drugs and immunotherapy for multifocal HCC patients.

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