Computer image of a human outline with liver highlighted in orange
iStock, magicmine

Molecular Profiling Identifies New High-Risk Subtype of Pediatric Liver Cancer

These cancers are less likely to respond to chemotherapy and patient outcomes are poor

Baylor College of Medicine
Published:May 27, 2022
|1 min read

Until recently, nearly all pediatric liver cancers were classified as either hepatoblastoma or hepatocellular carcinoma. However, pediatric pathologists observed that some liver tumors have histological features that do not easily fit either of these two carcinoma models. These cancers are less likely to respond to chemotherapy and patient outcomes are poor.

First author Dr. Pavel Sumazin, associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center, and his colleagues looked to better characterize this high-risk cancer.

The researchers examined the molecular profiles of the tumors, including genetic alterations and gene expression profiles. They found that these profiles do not fit into the hepatoblastoma (HB) or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) molecular categories. Instead, these tumors exhibited recurring molecular features that have been observed in both HBs and HCCs. They designated these tumors as hepatoblastomas with hepatocellular carcinoma features (HBCs).

The team also examined HBC treatments and outcomes and found that they tended to be more resistant to standard chemotherapy and have poor outcomes when not treated with more aggressive surgical approaches, including transplantation. Based on their findings, the team proposed a diagnostic algorithm to stratify HBCs and guide specialized treatment.

“Our findings highlight the importance of molecular testing to accurately classify these tumors to optimize treatment recommendations at the time of initial diagnosis,” said Dr. Dolores López-Terrada, corresponding author of the paper, professor of pathology, immunology, and pediatrics at Baylor and chief of the division of genomic medicine at Texas Children’s. “Our analysis suggested that children with HBCs may benefit from treatment strategies that differ from the guidelines for patients with hepatoblastoma and hepatocellular carcinoma.”

- This press release was originally published on the Baylor College of Medicine website