HEPATOLOGY: A home for hepatocellular cancer publications


  • Gregory J. Gores M.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. Miles and Shirley Fiterman Center for Digestive Diseases, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
    • College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905
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    • fax: 507-284-0762

  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

In my last commentary,1 I highlighted the emerging discipline of hepatobiliary oncology and noted that HEPATOLOGY encouraged submission of excellent papers on hepatocellular cancer (HCC). Our collective goal was to highlight HEPATOLOGY as a forum for communicating advances in HCC. In this commentary, I will explore this latter concept in greater detail. Have we achieved our goal? Has HEPATOLOGY become a home for outstanding clinical, translational, and basic research on this enigmatic, devastating malignancy?


GI, gastrointestinal; HCC, hepatocellular cancer.

On February 9, 2009, I examined the number of papers published in biomedical journals. I performed a PubMed search for hepatocellular carcinoma with various limits. The number of publications generated by PubMed was then taken as the total for the defined parameters. I made no attempt to verify the results by reading titles and/or abstracts. Also, all publications were considered to be equal numerically whether they were peer-reviewed original papers, reviews, letters to the editor, discussions in Hepatology Elsewhere, or other types of publications. Thus, in this respect, the data are unexpurgated. Because the defined parameters are the same for each time period and journal, the data are unbiased and useful for tracking trends or qualitative comparisons. Others may want a more refined analysis, but this more superficial approach does permit an initial exploration of the aforementioned questions.

What did I learn from this exercise? First, my search suggested that approximately 2934 publications on HCC were published in the last 12 months, a staggering number of publications, suggesting immense worldwide interest in hepatocellular carcinoma. Obviously, no single journal should or could publish all these manuscripts. For example, HEPATOLOGY published 349 papers in 2008, or approximately 30 per month. For HEPATOLOGY to publish all of these HCC publications, there would need to be 100 issues published per year, which would translate into 8 to 9 issues per month or 2 issues per week. This is not practical, and nor would it not be acceptable to the readership of HEPATOLOGY.

This number of papers was also too large for my simplified approach; therefore, to further limit my analysis, I employed the ISI Web of Knowledge by Thomson Reuters to categorize journals by subject and impact factor. I searched the top-tier journals in oncology, gastroenterology and hepatology, surgery, radiology, and pathology. Only journals with leading impact factors in their subject matter that published at least five HCC citations in the last 12 months were further analyzed (Table 1). The HCC papers in these journals accounted for 438 of the 2934; thus, 14% of all papers on HCC were published in these 21 journals. Given the multidisciplinary nature of HCC, this spread of papers over multiple discipline-related journals is not surprising. Of the top seven journals publishing more than 20 HCC papers per year, three are in the subject category of gastroenterology and hepatology, two are in surgery, and two are in oncology (Fig. 1). Two of these seven top-tier journals are sponsored by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases: HEPATOLOGY and Liver Transplantation. HEPATOLOGY was the clear winner in this analysis, with more than double the number of publications of the second journal. Thus, our multidisciplinary society and its journals prominently feature publications regarding HCC.

Table 1. Leading Subspecialty Journals Publishing More Than 5 Papers on HCC in 2008 by Impact Factor
JournalsImpact FactorHCC Papers
  1. Abbreviations: GI, gastrointestinal; HCC, hepatocellular cancer.

 Journal of Clinical Oncology15.512
 Lancet Oncology12.25
 Cancer Research7.729
 Clinical Cancer Research6.321
GI and liver  
 J Hepatol5.939
 American Journal of Gastroenterology6.114
 Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology5.56
 Annals of Surgery7.412
 American Journal of Transplantation6.49
 Annals of Surgical Oncology3.931
 Liver Transplantation3.726
 International Journal of Radiation Oncology4.312
 Modern Pathology4.39
 Human Pathology3.012
Figure 1.

The number of publications in 2008 on hepatocellular carcinoma by specialty journal. PubMed was used to identify publications related to hepatocellular carcinoma in 2008 in the top-tier journals in gastroenterology and hepatology, oncology, surgery, radiology, and pathology. Journals were determined to be top-tier journals in their specialty on the basis of their impact factors (see Table 1). The number of publications includes original papers, reviews, editorials, letters to the editors, and other kinds of publications (i.e., whatever was deemed a publication by PubMed). Those journals publishing at lease 20 papers on hepatocellular carcinoma in 2008 are depicted.

In my final cursory analysis, I asked if the number of HCC publications in HEPATOLOGY is static or increasing. The number of HCC publications in HEPATOLOGY increased significantly in 2008 (Fig. 2). Perhaps my previous commentary and HCC-oriented associate editors have promoted this trend. What is yet unclear is the potential impact factor of these publications. Such an analysis of the 2008 publications will need to wait until 2010, and thus it is premature to address this question. However, I am optimistic that these papers will be cited as often as other topic-oriented papers in HEPATOLOGY, given the worldwide interest in this cancer.

Figure 2.

The number of publications in HEPATOLOGY per year on hepatocellular carcinoma. PubMed was used to identify publications related to hepatocellular carcinoma per year dating back to 2004. The number of publications includes original papers, reviews, editorials, letters to the editors, and other kinds of publications (i.e., whatever was deemed a publication by PubMed).

Have we achieved our goal of providing a premier forum for excellent papers on HCC? The answer is yes in part, but we can do better. These data indicate that HEPATOLOGY has become a forum for papers on HCC. Indeed, HEPATOLOGY is perhaps an ideal forum for HCC publications, given its focus on “all things liver” and the scope of its multidisciplinary publications, which cover basic, translational, and clinical research. HEPATOLOGY is also third in Table 1 with respect to impact factor (Journal of Clinical Oncology and Gastroenterology have higher impact factors). Thus, HEPATOLOGY is increasing its visibility as a “cancer journal.” As I searched PubMed, I was impressed by the number of outstanding papers of which I was unaware. Many investigators choose to publish papers in journals that are sponsored by societies in which they are members or in journals specific to the geographic region in which they live. They likely select these journals for their publications so that their colleagues see and read their papers. Local recognition can be important for referrals, academic promotions, and stature. However, we emphasize the universal attraction of HEPATOLOGY to all disciplines as a journal to read and as a journal in which to publish, given its high impact factor and its focus. We are a home for disciplinary integration for “all things liver” and continue to welcome excellent HCC papers from our colleagues in surgical oncology, pathology, radiology, and basic science.