Genomic characterization of rare molecular subclasses of hepatocellular carcinoma

Jeffrey S. Damrauer, Markia A. Smith, Vonn Walter, Aatish Thennavan, Lisle E. Mose, Sara R. Selitsky, Katherine A. Hoadley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Primary liver cancer, consisting of both cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), is the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Our goal is to genomically characterize rare HCC subclasses to provide insight into disease biology. Leveraging The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) to perform a combined analysis of CCA (n = 36) and HCC (n = 275), we integrated multiple genomic platforms, to assess transcriptional profiles, mutational signatures, and copy number patterns to uncover underlying etiology and linage specific patterns. We identified two molecular classes distinct from prototypical HCC tumors. The first, CCA-Like, although histologically indistinguishable from HCC, had enrichment of CCA mutations (IDH1, BAP1), mutational signatures, and transcriptional patterns (SOX9, KRT19). CCA-Like, however, retained a copy number landscape similar to HCC, suggesting a hepatocellular linage. The second, Blast-Like, is enriched in TP53 mutations, HBV infection, exposure related mutational signatures and transcriptionally similar to hepatoblasts. Although these subclasses are molecularly distinct, they both have a worse progression-free survival compared to classical HCC tumors, yet are clinically treated the same. The identification of and characterization of CCA-Like and Blast-Like subclasses advance our knowledge of HCC as well as represents an urgent need for the identification of class specific biomarkers and targeted therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1150
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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