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Abstract

The majority of DNA-microarray based gene expression profiling studies on human hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has focused on identifying genes associated with clinicopathological features of HCC patients. Although notable success has been achieved, this approach still faces significant challenges due to the heterogeneous nature of HCC (and other cancers) as well as the many confounding factors embedded in gene expression profile data. However, these limitations are being overcome by improved bioinformatics and sophisticated analyses. Also, application of cross comparison of multiple gene expression data sets from human tumors and animal models are facilitating the identification of critical regulatory modules in the expression profiles. The success of this new experimental approach, comparative functional genomics, suggests that integration of independent data sets will enhance our ability to identify key regulatory elements in tumor development. Furthermore, integrating gene expression profiles with data from DNA sequence information in promoters, array-based CGH, and expression of non-coding genes (i.e., microRNAs) will further increase the reliability and significance of the biological and clinical inferences drawn from the data. The pace of current progress in the cancer profiling field, combined with the advances in high-throughput technologies in genomics and proteomics, as well as in bioinformatics, promises to yield unprecedented biological insights from the integrative (or systems) analysis of the combined cancer genomics database. The predicted beneficial impact of this “new integrative biology” on diagnosis, treatment and prevention of liver cancer and indeed cancer in general is enormous. (Hepatology 2006;43:S145–S150.)