Construction of a risk score prognosis model based on hepatocellular carcinoma microenvironment

Fa-Peng Zhang, Yi-Pei Huang, Wei-Xin Luo, Wan-Yu Deng, Chao-Qun Liu, Lei-Bo Xu, Chao Liu
World Journal of Gastroenterology: WJG 2020 January 14, 26 (2): 134-153

BACKGROUND: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a common cancer with a poor prognosis. Previous studies revealed that the tumor microenvironment (TME) plays an important role in HCC progression, recurrence, and metastasis, leading to poor prognosis. However, the effects of genes involved in TME on the prognosis of HCC patients remain unclear. Here, we investigated the HCC microenvironment to identify prognostic genes for HCC.

AIM: To identify a robust gene signature associated with the HCC microenvironment to improve prognosis prediction of HCC.

METHODS: We computed the immune/stromal scores of HCC patients obtained from The Cancer Genome Atlas based on the ESTIMATE algorithm. Additionally, a risk score model was established based on Differentially Expressed Genes (DEGs) between high- and low-immune/stromal score patients.

RESULTS: The risk score model consisting of eight genes was constructed and validated in the HCC patients. The patients were divided into high- or low-risk groups. The genes (Disabled homolog 2, Musculin, C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 8, Galectin 3, B-cell-activating transcription factor, Killer cell lectin like receptor B1, Endoglin and adenomatosis polyposis coli tumor suppressor) involved in our risk score model were considered to be potential immunotherapy targets, and they may provide better performance in combination. Functional enrichment analysis showed that the immune response and T cell receptor signaling pathway represented the major function and pathway, respectively, related to the immune-related genes in the DEGs between high- and low-risk groups. The receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis confirmed the good potency of the risk score prognostic model. Moreover, we validated the risk score model using the International Cancer Genome Consortium and the Gene Expression Omnibus database. A nomogram was established to predict the overall survival of HCC patients.

CONCLUSION: The risk score model and the nomogram will benefit HCC patients through personalized immunotherapy.

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