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In International journal of molecular sciences ; h5-index 102.0

Although extensive advancements have been made in treatment against hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the prognosis of HCC patients remains unsatisfied. It is now clearly established that extensive epigenetic changes act as a driver in human tumors. This study exploits HCC epigenetic deregulation to define a novel prognostic model for monitoring the progression of HCC. We analyzed the genome-wide DNA methylation profile of 374 primary tumor specimens using the Illumina 450 K array data from The Cancer Genome Atlas. We initially used a novel combination of Machine Learning algorithms (Recursive Features Selection, Boruta) to capture early tumor progression features. The subsets of probes obtained were used to train and validate Random Forest models to predict a Progression Free Survival greater or less than 6 months. The model based on 34 epigenetic probes showed the best performance, scoring 0.80 accuracy and 0.51 Matthews Correlation Coefficient on testset. Then, we generated and validated a progression signature based on 4 methylation probes capable of stratifying HCC patients at high and low risk of progression. Survival analysis showed that high risk patients are characterized by a poorer progression free survival compared to low risk patients. Moreover, decision curve analysis confirmed the strength of this predictive tool over conventional clinical parameters. Functional enrichment analysis highlighted that high risk patients differentiated themselves by the upregulation of proliferative pathways. Ultimately, we propose the oncogenic MCM2 gene as a methylation-driven gene of which the representative epigenetic markers could serve both as predictive and prognostic markers. Briefly, our work provides several potential HCC progression epigenetic biomarkers as well as a new signature that may enhance patients surveillance and advances in personalized treatment.

Bedon Luca, Dal Bo Michele, Mossenta Monica, Busato Davide, Toffoli Giuseppe, Polano Maurizio


epigenetic, hepatocellular carcinoma, hepatocellular carcinoma DNA methylation, prediction model, tumor microenvironment