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In Frontiers in pharmacology

Transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) is an effective treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). During TACE, chemotherapeutic agents are locally infused into the tumor and simultaneously cause hypoxia in tumor cells. Importantly, the poor effect of TACE in some HCC patients has been shown to be related to dysregulated expression of hypoxia-related genes (HRGs). Therefore, we identified 33 HRGs associated with TACE (HRGTs) by differential analysis and characterized the mutational landscape of HRGTs. Among 586 HCC patients, two molecular subtypes reflecting survival status were identified by consistent clustering analysis based on 24 prognosis-associated HRGs. Comparing the transcriptomic difference of the above molecular subtypes, three molecular subtypes that could reflect changes in the immune microenvironment were then identified. Ultimately, four HRGTs (CTSO, MMP1, SPP1, TPX2) were identified based on machine learning approachs. Importantly, risk assessment can be performed for each patient by these genes. Based on the parameters of the risk model, we determined that high-risk patients have a more active immune microenvironment, indicating "hot tumor" status. And the Tumor Immune Dysfunction and Exclusion (TIDE), the Cancer Immunome Atlas (TCIA), and Genome of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer (GDSC) databases further demonstrated that high-risk patients have a positive response to immunotherapy and have lower IC50 values for drugs targeting cell cycle, PI3K/mTOR, WNT, and RTK related signaling pathways. Finally, single-cell level analysis revealed significant overexpression of CTSO, MMP1, SPP1, and TPX2 in malignant cell after PD-L1/CTLA-4 treatment. In conclusion, Onco-Multi-OMICS analysis showed that HRGs are potential biomarkers for patients with refractory TACE, and it provides a novel immunological perspective for developing personalized therapies.

Cheng Xuelian, Li Jingjing, Feng Limei, Feng Songwei, Wu Xiao, Li Yongming


TACE, drug resistance, hepatocellular carcinoma, hypoxia, prognosis