The c-met proto-oncogene encodes the tyrosine kinase receptor for hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), a potent mitogen and motogen for epithelial cells. Because of its profound effects on cell growth and motility, HGF may be important in the development of cancer metastases in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In this study, we examined HGF concentration and expression of the c-met proto-oncogene product (c-Met) in 62 patients with HCC to determine the relationship between the level of expression and clinicopathological features, and patient outcome following hepatectomy. Western blotting was used to examine the c-Met expression, and HGF concentration in tumors was measured using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. c-Met was found to be overexpressed in HCC compared with nontumorous liver tissue (P < .01), and correlated with an increased incidence of intrahepatic metastases (P = .039). Patients were divided into two groups: low c-Met HCC and high c-Met HCC. Patients with high c-Met HCC had a significantly shorter 5-year survival than patients with low c-Met HCC (33.5% vs. 80.3%, respectively; P < .05). However, there was no correlation between HGF concentration in the tumor tissue and clinicopathological factors and patient survival. These results indicate that the expression of c-Met played an important role in tumor growth and metastases in patients who underwent hepatectomy for HCC.
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