Research Paper Volume 13, Issue 5 pp 7517—7537

Molecular characterization of long-term survivors of hepatocellular carcinoma

Junwei Shen1,2, *, , Jing Hu3, *, , Jiawen Wu1,2, *, , Xiaoli Luo1,2, , Yanfei Li4, , Jue Li1,2, ,

  • 1 Key Laboratory of Arrhythmias of the Ministry of Education of China, Shanghai East Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200120, China
  • 2 Shanghai Pudong New Area Mental Health Center, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200124, China
  • 3 Department of Gynecology, Shanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai 201204, China
  • 4 Shanghai Key Laboratory of Molecular Imaging, Shanghai University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Shanghai 201318, China
* Equal contribution

Received: February 13, 2020       Accepted: November 23, 2020       Published: March 3, 2021
How to Cite

Copyright: © 2021 Shen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Hepatocellular carcinoma is one of the most fatal cancers, and the majority of patients die within three years. However, a small proportion of patients overcome this fatal disease and survive for more than five years. To determine the molecular characteristics of long-term survivors (survival ≥ 5 years), we analyzed the genomic and clinical data of hepatocellular carcinoma patients from The Cancer Genome Atlas and the International Cancer Genome Consortium databases, and identified molecular features that were strongly associated with the patients’ prognosis. Genes involved in the cell cycle were expressed at lower levels in tumor tissues from long-term survivors than those from short-term survivors (survival ≤ 1 years). High levels of positive regulators of the G1/S cell cycle transition (cyclin-dependent kinase 2 [CDK2], CDK4, Cyclin E2 [CCNE2], E2F1, E2F2) were potential markers of poor prognosis. Hepatocellular carcinoma patients with TP53 mutations were mainly belonged to the short-term survivor group. Abemaciclib, an FDA-approved selective inhibitor of CDK4/6, inhibited the cell proliferation and tumor growth of hepatocellular carcinoma cells in vitro and in vivo. Thus, high G1/S transition-related gene levels and TP53 mutations are promising diagnostic biomarkers for short-term survivals, and abemaciclib may be a potential targeted drug for hepatocellular carcinoma.


HCC: Hepatocellular Carcinoma; TCGA: The Cancer Genome Atlas; STSs: Short-term Survivors; LTSs: Long-term Survivors; GEO: Gene Expression Omnibus; GO: Gene Ontology; GSEA: Gene Set Enrichment Analysis; qRT-PCR: quantitative Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction.