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Altered epidermal fatty acid-binding protein expression in hepatocellular carcinoma predicts unfavorable outcomes

Authors Lu J, Cai S, Pan Y, Yun J

Received 26 July 2018

Accepted for publication 21 October 2018

Published 23 November 2018 Volume 2018:10 Pages 6275—6284

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CMAR.S181555

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Ms Justinn Cochran

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Rituraj Purohit


Jia-bin Lu,1,2,* Shao-hang Cai,1,3,* Ying-hua Pan,4,* Jing-ping Yun1,2

1Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, State Key Laboratory of Oncology in South China, Collaborative Innovation Center for Cancer Medicine, Guangzhou 510060, China; 2Department of Pathology, Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, Guangzhou 510060, China; 3Intensive Care Unit, Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, Guangzhou 510060, China; 4Department of Rheumatology, The Third Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510060, China

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Objective: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a rapidly proliferating malignancy that requires large amounts of fatty acids to synthesize cellular membranes and provide energy. Epidermal fatty acid-binding protein (EFABP) is uniquely expressed in epidermal cells, but its role and expression in HCC are not clear.
Subjects and methods: A total of 804 HCC specimens were collected to construct a tissue microarray (TMA) and for immunohistochemistry (IHC) analysis. The relationship between EFABP expression and clinical features of patients with HCC was analyzed.
Results: The EFABP IHC score for HCC tissue was 0.76±0.69, being significantly higher than that for matched nontumorous tissue (0.48±0.55; P<0.001). Using the median IHC score (ie, 0.8) in the tumorous tissue, a high level of EFABP expression was found in 57.3% (461/804) of the cases. Patients with HCC displaying high EFABP expression had poorer tumor differentiation (P=0.029), more vascular invasion (P=0.006), and a higher proportion of late TNM stage disease (P=0.042). Kaplan–Meier analysis revealed that the patients with high EFABP expression had significantly worse outcomes in terms of overall survival (P=0.003), worse disease-free survival (P=0.021), and a higher probability of recurrence (P=0.014). Multivariate analysis indicated that EFABP expression was an independent prognostic variable for overall survival (P=0.021) and disease-free survival (P=0.044). For HCC recurrence, only vascular invasion (P=0.020) and EFABP expression (P=0.026) were independent risk factors.
Conclusion: Our data revealed that EFABP expression was increased in HCC samples. High EFABP expression was correlated with shorter survival times in patients with HCC and served as an independent factor for worse outcomes. Our study therefore provides a promising biomarker for the prognostic prediction of HCC and a potential therapeutic target for the disease.

Keywords: epidermal fatty acid-binding protein, lipid metabolism, hepatocellular carcinoma, prognostic biomarker

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