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1.  Factors predicting aggressiveness of non-hypervascular hepatic nodules detected on hepatobiliary phase of gadolinium ethoxybenzyl diethylene-triamine-pentaacetic-acid magnetic resonance imaging 
AIM: To establish a prognostic formula that distinguishes non-hypervascular hepatic nodules (NHNs) with higher aggressiveness from less hazardous one.
METHODS: Seventy-three NHNs were detected in gadolinium ethoxybenzyl diethylene-triamine-pentaacetic-acid magnetic resonance imaging (Gd-EOB-DTPA-MRI) study and confirmed to change 2 mm or more in size and/or to gain hypervascularity. All images were interpreted independently by an experienced, board-certified abdominal radiologist and hepatologist; both knew that the patients were at risk for hepatocellular carcinoma development but were blinded to the clinical information. A formula predicting NHN destiny was developed using a generalized estimating equation model with thirteen explanatory variables: age, gender, background liver diseases, Child-Pugh class, NHN diameter, T1-weighted imaging/T2-weighted imaging detectability, fat deposition, lower signal intensity in arterial phase, lower signal intensity in equilibrium phase, α-fetoprotein, des-γ-carboxy prothrombin, α-fetoprotein-L3, and coexistence of classical hepatocellular carcinoma. The accuracy of the formula was validated in bootstrap samples that were created by resampling of 1000 iterations.
RESULTS: During a median follow-up period of 504 d, 73 NHNs with a median diameter of 9 mm (interquartile range: 8-12 mm) grew or shrank by 68.5% (fifty nodules) or 20.5% (fifteen nodules), respectively, whereas hypervascularity developed in 38.4% (twenty eight nodules). In the fifteen shrank nodules, twelve nodules disappeared, while 11.0% (eight nodules) were stable in size but acquired vascularity. A generalized estimating equation analysis selected five explanatories from the thirteen variables as significant factors to predict NHN progression. The estimated regression coefficients were 0.36 for age, 6.51 for lower signal intensity in arterial phase, 8.70 or 6.03 for positivity of hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus, 9.37 for des-γ-carboxy prothrombin, and -4.05 for fat deposition. A formula incorporating the five coefficients revealed sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of 88.0%, 86.7%, and 87.7% in the formulating cohort, whereas these of 87.2% ± 5.7%, 83.8% ± 13.6%, and 87.3% ± 4.5% in the bootstrap samples.
CONCLUSION: These data suggest that the formula helps Gd-EOB-DTPA-MRI detect a trend toward hepatocyte transformation by predicting NHN destiny.
PMCID: PMC4402305  PMID: 25914467
Hepatocellular carcinoma; Magnetic resonance imaging; Ethoxybenzyl moiety; Non-hypervascular hepatic nodule; Fate prediction
2.  Hepatitis B virus X stimulates redox signaling through activation of ataxia telangiectasia mutated kinase 
Hepatitis B virus X (HBX) protein plays a crucial role in carcinogenesis, but its mechanism is unclear. The involvement of ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) kinase in the enhanced redox system was investigated by examining the phosphorylation level of ATM in HBX gene-transfected cells and in transgenic mice following redox system manipulation by treatment with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) or antioxidant. Western blotting and immunostaining showed that phospho-ATM was significantly increased by HBX both in vitro (3.2-fold; p<0.05) and in vivo (4-fold; p<0.05), and this effect was abrogated by antioxidant treatment. The level of PKC-δ in HBX-expressing cells was increased 3.5-fold compared to controls. Nuclear localized NF-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) was increased in HBX-expressing cells exposed to H2O2, but remained at lower levels after the treatment with rottlerin, KU55933, or caffeine. The levels of anti-oxidant molecules were increased in HBX expressing cells and in transgenic mice, indicating that HBX stimulates the Nrf2-mediated redox system. The levels of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) were significantly increased in HBX-expressing cells treated with hydrogen peroxide in the presence of ATM inhibitor KU55933 or caffeine. Treatment of HBX-expressing cells with KU55933 or caffeine before the exposure to H2O2 increased the ratio of cell apoptosis to 33 ± 4% (p<0.05) and 22 ± 4% (p<0.05), respectively. Collectively, HBX stimulates the ATM-mediated PKC-δ/Nrf2 pathway, and maintains the enhanced activity of the redox system. Therefore, manipulating ATM kinase activity might be a useful strategy for treating HBX-induced carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4069949  PMID: 24966912
Hepatitis B virus X; ataxia telangiectasia mutated; reactive oxygen species
3.  Valproic acid overcomes transforming growth factor-β-mediated sorafenib resistance in hepatocellular carcinoma 
Sorafenib is a multi-kinase inhibitor approved for hepatocellular carcinoma, but rarely causes tumor regression in patients with chronic liver diseases. To investigate whether growth factor-mediated signaling is involved in sorafenib resistance, HepG2 and PLC/PRF/5 hepatoma cells were exposed to epidermal growth factor (EGF), hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) or transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) prior to treatment with sorafenib. Furthermore, to identify an effective combination treatment with sorafenib, growth factor-sensitized cells were treated with sorafenib alone or in combination with celecoxib, lovastatin or valproic acid (VPA). Trypan blue staining and Annexin V assays showed that the cytotoxic effect of sorafenib was inhibited by 15-54% in cells sensitized to TGF-β (P<0.05). Western blotting analysis showed that TGF-β significantly activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-mediated AKT signaling, and sorafenib failed to suppress both ERK and AKT in TGF-β-sensitized cells. The decreased anti-tumor effect of sorafenib was rescued by chemical inhibition of ERK and AKT. When TGF-β-sensitized cells were treated with sorafenib plus VPA, the levels of phosphorylated ERK and AKT were considerably suppressed and the numbers of dead cells were increased by 3.7-5.7-fold compared with those exposed to sorafenib alone (P<0.05). Moreover, low dose sorafenib-induced cell migration was effectively suppressed by combination treatment with sorafenib and VPA. Collectively, TGF-β/ERK/AKT signaling might play a critical role in sorafenib resistance in hepatoma cells, and combination treatment with VPA may be effective against this drug resistance.
PMCID: PMC4014211  PMID: 24817927
Sorafenib; TGF-β; hepatocellular carcinoma
4.  Autoantibodies in primary biliary cirrhosis: Recent progress in research on the pathogenetic and clinical significance 
Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a chronic progressive cholestatic liver disease characterized by immune-mediated destruction of the small- and medium-sized intrahepatic bile ducts and the presence of antimitochondrial antibodies (AMA) in the serum. AMA are detected in over 90% of patients with PBC, whereas their prevalence in the general population is extremely low, varying from 0.16% to 1%. Previous studies have shown that the unique characteristics of biliary epithelial cells undergoing apoptosis may result in a highly direct and very specific immune response to mitochondrial autoantigens. Moreover, recent studies have demonstrated that serum from AMA-positive PBC patients is reactive with a number of xenobiotic modified E2 subunits of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, which is not observed in the serum of normal individuals. These findings indicate that chemicals originating from the environment may be associated with a breakdown in the tolerance to mitochondrial autoantigens. While it is currently generally accepted that AMA are the most specific serological markers of PBC, more than 60 autoantibodies have been investigated in patients with PBC, and some have previously been considered specific to other autoimmune diseases. This review covers the recent progress in research on the pathogenetic and clinical significance of important autoantibodies in PBC. Determining the pathogenic role of those autoantibodies in PBC remains a priority of basic and clinical research.
PMCID: PMC3949269  PMID: 24627596
Primary biliary cirrhosis; Autoantibodies; Anti-mitochondrial antibodies; Anticentromere antibodies; Anti-gp210 antibodies
5.  Presence of Antibodies against Self Human Leukocyte Antigen Class II Molecules in Autoimmune Hepatitis 
Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) can arise de novo after liver transplantation (LT) for non-autoimmune liver diseases. Considering the identical features of de novo AIH after LT and classical AIH, as well as the importance of anti-human leukocyte antigen (HLA) antibodies in graft rejection, we investigated the presence of circulating anti-HLA class II antibodies in the sera of 35 patients with AIH, 30 patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), and 30 healthy donors using fluorescent dye-impregnated beads bound to HLA molecules. We then investigated the allele specificity of the antibodies and identified the HLA alleles in each patient using DNA-based HLA typing. We also examined HLA class II expression in liver samples using immunohistochemistry. Anti-HLA class II antibodies were detected significantly more frequently in the patients with AIH (88.1%) than in the patients with PBC (33.3%) or in the healthy donors (13.3%) (both P <0.01). We confirmed that the anti-HLA class II antibodies in the AIH patients showed specificity for several HLA class II alleles, including self HLA class II alleles. Moreover, positive reactivity with anti-self HLA class II antibodies was associated with higher serum transaminase levels. In conclusion, we demonstrated, for the first time, that antibodies against self HLA class II alleles were detectable in patients with AIH. Our results suggest that an antibody-mediated immune response against HLA class II molecules on hepatocytes may be involved in the pathogenesis or acceleration of liver injury in AIH.
PMCID: PMC4081305  PMID: 25013363
HLA; AIH; PBC; anti-HLA antibodies.
6.  Active treatments are a rational approach for hepatocellular carcinoma in elderly patients 
AIM: To determine whether an active intervention is beneficial for the survival of elderly patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
METHODS: The survival of 740 patients who received various treatments for HCC between 1983 and 2011 was compared among different age groups using Cox regression analysis. Therapeutic options were principally selected according to the clinical practice guidelines for HCC from the Japanese Society of Hepatology. The treatment most likely to achieve regional control capability was chosen, as far as possible, in the following order: resection, radiofrequency ablation, percutaneous ethanol injection, transcatheter arterial chemoembolization, transarterial oily chemoembolization, hepatic arterial infusion chemotherapy, systemic chemotherapy including molecular targeting, or best supportive care. Each treatment was used alone, or in combination, with a clinical goal of striking the best balance between functional hepatic reserve and the volume of the targeted area, irrespective of their age. The percent survival to life expectancy was calculated based on a Japanese national population survey.
RESULTS: The median ages of the subjects during each 5-year period from 1986 were 61, 64, 67, 68 and 71 years and increased significantly with time (P < 0.0001). The Child-Pugh score was comparable among younger (59 years of age or younger), middle-aged (60-79 years of age), and older (80 years of age or older) groups (P = 0.34), whereas the tumor-node-metastasis stage tended to be more advanced in the younger group (P = 0.060). Advanced disease was significantly more frequent in the younger group compared with the middle-aged group (P = 0.010), whereas there was no difference between the middle-aged and elderly groups (P = 0.75). The median survival times were 2593, 2011, 1643, 1278 and 1195 d for 49 years of age or younger, 50-59 years of age, 60-69 years of age, 70-79 years of age, or 80 years of age or older age groups, respectively, whereas the median percent survival to life expectancy were 13.9%, 21.9%, 24.7%, 25.7% and 37.6% for each group, respectively. The impact of age on actual survival time was significant (P = 0.020) with a hazard ratio of 1.021, suggesting that a 10-year-older patient has a 1.23-fold higher risk for death, and the overall survival was the worst in the oldest group. On the other hand, when the survival benefit was evaluated on the basis of percent survival to life expectancy, age was again found to be a significant explanatory factor (P = 0.022); however, the oldest group showed the best survival among the five different age groups. The youngest group revealed the worst outcomes in this analysis, and the hazard ratio of the oldest against the youngest was 0.35 for death. The survival trends did not differ substantially between the survival time and percent survival to life expectancy, when survival was compared overall or among various therapeutic interventions.
CONCLUSION: These results suggest that a therapeutic approach for HCC should not be restricted due to patient age.
PMCID: PMC3699049  PMID: 23840122
Hepatocellular carcinoma; Population aging; Survival; Life expectancy; Active intervention
7.  DNA Damage Sensor γ-H2AX Is Increased in Preneoplastic Lesions of Hepatocellular Carcinoma 
The Scientific World Journal  2013;2013:597095.
Background. Phosphorylated histone H2AX (γ-H2AX) is a potential regulator of DNA repair and is a useful tool for detecting DNA damage. To evaluate the clinical usefulness of γ-H2AX in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), we measured the level of γ-H2AX in HCC, dysplastic nodule, and nontumorous liver diseases. Methods. The level of γ-H2AX was measured by immunohistochemistry in fifty-eight HCC, 18 chronic hepatitis, 22 liver cirrhosis, and 19 dysplastic nodules. Appropriate cases were also examined by fluorescence analysis and western blotting. Results. All cases with chronic liver disease showed increased levels of γ-H2AX expression. In 40 (69.9%) of 58 cases with HCC, the labeling index (LI) of γ-H2AX was above 50% and was inversely correlated with the histological grade. Mean γ-H2AX LI was the highest in dysplastic nodule (74.1 ± 22.1%), which was significantly higher than HCC (P < 0.005). Moreover, γ-H2AX was significantly increased in nontumorous tissues of HCC as compared with liver cirrhosis without HCC (62.5 ± 24.7%, from 5.1 to 96.0%, P < 0.005). Conclusions. γ-H2AX was increased in the preneoplastic lesions of HCC and might be a useful biomarker for predicting the risk of HCC.
PMCID: PMC3603670  PMID: 23533353
8.  A safe and effective dose of cisplatin in hepatic arterial infusion chemotherapy for hepatocellular carcinoma 
Cancer Medicine  2013;2(1):86-98.
Cisplatin (CDDP) is an anticancer agent that is commonly used in hepatic arterial infusion (HAI) chemotherapy for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This study aimed to clarify the safe and effective dose of CDDP in HAI for HCC. The hypervascular area was measured in 42 HCCs before and after HAI with CDDP. Serum platinum concentration was quantified in the peripheral and/or middle hepatic veins by atomic absorption spectrometry. The relation between the HCC response and CDDP dose was statistically analyzed. The multiple HCC nodules in an individual case generally demonstrated the same response to CDDP. The free-platinum concentration stayed relatively constant in the hepatic vein during HAI followed by a rapid decline, while total-platinum gradually increased then slowly disappeared over several days. After CDDP-HAI, 15 HCCs shrunk and 27 HCCs grew. The reduction rate in the shrunken nodules was tended to be correlated with CDDP dose after standardization with the target liver volume. On the other hand, the growth rate of the enlarged HCCs was significantly correlated with CDDP dose after normalization with creatinine clearance. These data support a recommendation of CDDP-HAI infusion where the amount of CDDP (mg) administered is less than patient creatinine clearance (mL/min/1.73 m2) upon an assumption of HCC doubling time of 90 days, and the targeted liver is smaller than 200 times the CDDP dose (mg). A further analysis is required to define appropriate injection speeds.
PMCID: PMC3797567  PMID: 24133631
Cisplatin; dose recommendation; hepatic arterial infusion chemotherapy; hepatocellular carcinoma
9.  Phase I study of miriplatin combined with transarterial chemotherapy using CDDP powder in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma 
BMC Gastroenterology  2012;12:127.
There is no standard therapeutic procedure for the hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with poor hepatic reserve function. With the approval of newly developed chemotherapeutic agent of miriplatin, we have firstly conducted the phase I study of CDDP powder (DDP-H) and miriplatin combination therapy and reported its safety and efficacy for treating unresectable HCC in such cases. To determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) and dose-limiting toxicity (DLT) for the combination of transarterial oily chemoembolization (TOCE) and transarterial chemotherapy (TAC) using miriplatin and DDP-H for treating unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Transarterial chemotherapy using DDP-H was performed through the proper hepatic artery targeting the HCC nodules by increasing the dose of DDP-H (35–65 mg/m2) followed by targeting the HCC nodules by transarterial oily chemoembolization with miriplatin.
A total of nine patients were enrolled in this study and no DLT was observed with any dose of DDP-H in all cases in whom 80 mg (median, 18–120) miriplatin was administered. An anti-tumour efficacy rating for partial response was obtained in one patient, while a total of four patients (among eight evaluated) showed stable disease response, leading to 62.5% of disease control rate. The pharmacokinetic results showed no further increase in plasma platinum concentration following miriplatin administration.
Our results suggest that a combination of DDP-H and miriplatin can be safely administered up to their respective MTD for treating HCC.
Trial registration
This study was registered with the University Hospital Medical Information Network Clinical Trials Registry (UMIN-CTR000003541).
PMCID: PMC3482551  PMID: 22994941
Miriplatin; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Cisplatin powder; Phase I clinical trial
10.  Multicentric occurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis 
World Journal of Hepatology  2011;3(1):15-23.
AIM: To reveal the manner of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) development in patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) focusing on multicentric occurrence (MO) of HCC.
METHODS: We compared clinicopathological characteristics between patients with and without MO of HCC arising from NASH background. The clinical features were implicated with reference to the literature available.
RESULTS: MO of HCC was identified with histological proof in 4 out of 12 patients with NASH-related HCC (2 males and 2 females). One patient had synchronous MO; an advanced HCC, two well-differentiated HCCs and a dysplastic nodule, followed by the development of metachronous MO of HCC. The other three patients had multiple advanced HCCs accompanied by a well-differentiated HCC or a dysplastic nodule. Of these three patients, one had synchronous MO, one had metachronous MO and the other had both synchronous and metachronous MO. There were no obvious differences between the patients with or without MO in terms of liver function tests, tumor markers and anatomical extent of HCC. On the other hand, all four patients with MO of HCC were older than 70 years old and had the comorbidities of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), hypertension and cirrhosis. Although these conditions were not limited to MO of HCC, all the conditions were met in only one of eight patients without MO of HCC. Thus, concurrence of these conditions may be a predisposing situation to synchronous MO of HCC. In particular, old age, T2DM and cirrhosis were suggested to be prerequisite for MO because these factors were depicted in common among two other cases with MO of HCC under NASH in the literature.
CONCLUSION: The putative predisposing factors and necessary preconditions for synchronous MO of HCC in NASH were suggested in this study. Further investigations are required to clarify the accurate prevalence and predictors of MO to establish better strategies for treatment and prevention leading to the prognostic improvement in NASH.
PMCID: PMC3035698  PMID: 21307983
Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Multicentric occurrence
11.  Very-Low-Dose Pegylated Interferon a2a Plus Ribavirin Therapy for Advanced Liver Cirrhosis Type C: A Possible Therapeutic Alternative without Splenic Intervention 
Case Reports in Gastroenterology  2010;4(2):261-266.
Despite the recent progress in interferon (IFN) therapies for chronic hepatitis C, liver cirrhosis remains refractory. One of the major obstacles to successful IFN therapy is low platelet count. Currently, splenic interventions, such as partial splenic embolization (PSE) or surgical splenectomy, have been applied effectively and make standard IFN therapy possible. However, there may be a group of patients with low platelet counts who can be treated without splenic intervention. We here report two patients with advanced type C liver cirrhosis who were successfully treated using very-low-dose pegylated interferon a2a plus ribavirin. One patient had a very low platelet count (2.5 × 104/μl) due to splenomegaly before treatment. However, pretreatment serum HCV titers were low in both patients and early viral responses were obtained in both. Because PSE or splenectomy may still have some safety concerns, this attenuated IFN treatment protocol can be an alternative therapeutic option for patients with advanced type C liver disease, but good virological factors for sustained virological response.
PMCID: PMC2929425  PMID: 20805953
Liver cirrhosis type C; Low-dose pegylated interferon; Ribavirin; Low platelets; Low neutrophils; Avoiding splenic intervention; Low HCV titers
12.  Shear wave velocity is a useful marker for managing nonalcoholic steatohepatitis 
AIM: To investigate whether a noninvasive measurement of tissue strain has a potential usefulness for management of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
METHODS: In total 26 patients, 23 NASHs and 3 normal controls were enrolled in this study. NASH was staged based on Brunt criterion. At a region of interest (ROI), a shear wave was evoked by implementing an acoustic radiation force impulse (ARFI), and the propagation velocity was quantified.
RESULTS: Shear wave velocity (SWV) could be reproducibly quantified at all ROIs in all subjects except for 4 NASH cases, in which a reliable SWV value was not calculated at several ROIs. An average SWV of 1.34 ± 0.26 m/s in fibrous stage 0-1 was significantly slower than 2.20 ± 0.74 m/s and 2.90 ± 1.01 m/s in stages 3 and 4, respectively, but was not significantly different from 1.79 ± 0.78 m/s in stage 2. When a cutoff value was set at 1.47 m/s, receiver operating characteristic analysis showed significance to dissociate stages 3 and 4 from stage 0-1 (P = 0.0092) with sensitivity, specificity and area under curve of 100%, 75% and 94.2%, respectively. In addition, the correlation between SWV and hyaluronic acid was significant (P < 0.0001), while a tendency toward negative correlation was observed with serum albumin (P = 0.053).
CONCLUSION: The clinical implementation of ARFI provides noninvasive repeated evaluations of liver stiffness at an arbitrary position, which has the potential to shed new light on NASH management.
PMCID: PMC2887589  PMID: 20556839
Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis; Ultrasound; Liver stiffness measurement; Shear wave velocity; Acoustic radiation force impulse
13.  Successful treatment with lamivudine may correlate with reduction of serum ferritin levels in the patients with chronic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis type B 
Hepatology International  2008;2(3):382-387.
To study the changes in serum ferritin levels in lamivudine (LAM)-treated patients with chronic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis type B and determine whether successful treatment with LAM results in a reduction of serum ferritin levels.
Thirty patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection were followed prospectively during their treatment with LAM for 12 months. Serum HBV DNA, ferritin levels, and emergence of YMDD mutants were monitored. A case of severe liver cirrhosis with hepatic hemosiderosis that was treated successfully with LAM also is shown as a representative case.
Serum alanine aminotransferase and ferritin levels decreased significantly more in the patients treated with LAM without YMDD mutants (n = 23) than those with mutants (n = 7). Hepatic hemosiderosis along with serum iron markers improved greatly in the representative patient.
Successful treatment with LAM may reduce serum ferritin levels and improve hepatic siderosis in a subset of patients with chronic HBV infection.
PMCID: PMC2716891  PMID: 19669269
Lamivudine; Chronic hepatitis ; Liver cirrhosis ; Ferritin ;  YMDD mutant

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