Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Liver Cancer Genomics

Studying the genetics of HCC

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common form of liver cancer and is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men worldwide. Researchers at the McDonnell Genome Institute and colleagues have teamed up to study the genetics of HCC.

Liver Cancer Genomics Details

Most hepatocellular carcinomas form as a result of chronic liver inflammation/cirrhosis caused by toxins, Hepatitis viral infections, and alcohol, but little is understood about the genetics of this disease.

Unpredictable Outcomes

The primary treatment for liver cancer is surgery or liver transplant, especially in those with chronic liver disease. It is difficult to predict the likelihood of tumors reappearing following surgery or a transplant. Identifying the genetic markers that increase the chance of recurrence can help determine if a patient will benefit from surgery or a transplant.

The McDonnell Genome Institute is collaborating with Dr. William Chapman, professor of Surgery, director of the Division of General Surgery, and chief of the Abdominal Transplantation Section at Washington University, to study the genetics of HCC. This is one of several Center Initiated Projects, projects proposed by the McDonnell Genome Institute that fall under the NHGRI Large-Scale Center grant.

Whole Genome Sequencing

Dr. Elaine Mardis will lead this project, which will focus on discovery of genes specifically involved in the formation of HCC. This project will sequence banked samples of 22 individuals with HCC, who do not have any additional liver disease, and search for mutated genes involved in the carcinoma. A small number of individuals with cirrhotic livers will also be sequenced. This group is expected to show a greater number of mutations due to the disease-causing agents that would not affect those with no additional liver disease.

Whole genome sequencing and transcriptome sequencing (which examines gene expression) will be performed on both sample sets. The researchers will then use an integrated analysis to identify mutations and changes in expression levels of genes. The goal of this work is to significantly advance the understanding of Hepatocellular Carcinoma and provide new clues to its diagnosis and treatment.