J Cancer 2017; 8(1):39-47. doi:10.7150/jca.16736

Research Paper

Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition is Superior to Vessels-Encapsulate Tumor Cluster in Promoting Metastasis of Hepatocellular Carcinoma: a Morphological Evidence

Chuanchao He1,2*, Zhenyu Zhou1,2*, Hai Jiang1,2*, Zi Yin3, Shiyu Meng1,4, Jianlong Zhang1,2, Pinbo Huang1,2, Kang Xu1,2, Lijuan Bian1,5✉, Zhiyu Xiao1,2✉, Jie Wang1,2✉

1. Guangdong Province Key Laboratory of Malignant Tumor Epigenetics and Gene Regulation, Research Center of Medicine, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, No. 107 Yanjiang Western Road, Guangzhou 510120, China.
2. Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, No. 33 Yingfeng Road, Guangzhou 510289, China.
3. General Surgery Department, Guangdong General Hospital, Guangdong Academy of Medical Sciences, No. 106 Zhongshan Er Road., Guangzhou, 510080, China.
4. Department of Anesthesiology, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, No. 33 Yingfeng Road, Guangzhou 510289, China.
5. Department of Pathology, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hospital, No. 107 Yanjiang Western Road, Guangzhou 510120, China.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.

Abstract

Purpose Vessels-encapsulate tumor cluster (VETC) is a vascular pattern distinct from classical capillary-like pattern. It is reported that VETC structure is common in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and can promote HCC metastasis in an epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-independent but VETC-dependent manner. However, the main metastatic manner of HCC containing both VETC and classical vascular structure (we called VETC±) is unknown.

Methods Vascular pattern types and E-cadherin expression were evaluated by immunohistochemical staining in 168 HCC tissues, 50 pairs of primary HCC tissues and intrahepatic metastatic lesions, as well as 12 pairs of primary HCC tissues and major portal vein tumor thrombus. Survival and recurrence rates were evaluated using Kaplan-Meier analysis. The multivariate Cox proportional hazards model was used to determine the independent prognostic factors of HCC.

Results VETC± cases were more common than VETC+ cases (HCC tissues with a VETC pattern fully distributed in the HCC section) in HCC. Statistical analysis showed that VETC± was an independent predictor of survival and recurrence. Furthermore, E-cadherin was positively correlated with the presence of VETC structure. In the case of HCCs with VETC±, their metastases (both intrahepatic and major vascular) were more likely to be VETC negative.

Conclusions Our findings suggest that EMT may be superior to VETC in promoting HCC metastasis. Thus, both anti-EMT and anti-VETC agents should be considered in the case of HCC with VETC±.

Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, vessels-encapsulate tumor cluster, angiogenesis, prognosis.

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How to cite this article:
He C, Zhou Z, Jiang H, Yin Z, Meng S, Zhang J, Huang P, Xu K, Bian L, Xiao Z, Wang J. Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition is Superior to Vessels-Encapsulate Tumor Cluster in Promoting Metastasis of Hepatocellular Carcinoma: a Morphological Evidence. J Cancer 2017; 8(1):39-47. doi:10.7150/jca.16736. Available from http://www.jcancer.org/v08p0039.htm