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Abstract

The high incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in cirrhosis, where previous studies have indicated a severe reduction in several antioxidant vitamin factors, prompted us to compare plasma liposoluble vitamins with tocopherol content in healthy and neoplastic liver tissue in humans. This, with a view to a more positive preventive dietary approach, given the conflicting results obtained by liposoluble vitamin dietary supplementation in different malignancies. Eleven patients with cirrhosis, 18 patients affected by cirrhosis with HCC, and 10 patients with liver metastases (LM) from digestive tract adenocarcinomas were compared with controls who had undergone perlaparoscopic cholecistectomy. Plasma α- and β-carotene, retinol and tocopherol, together with liver tocopherol, from both nonmalignant portions and malignant nodules of the same organ, were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography following a well-assessed technique. The results confirm a trend towards a reduction in circulating carotenoids and tocopherol in cirrhosis and in patients affected by cirrhosis with HCC. Tocopherol content in liver tissue is significantly decreased in cirrhosis (0.26 + 0.03 μmol/g prot., mean + SEM, P < .001) and in cirrhotic areas of the HCC group (0.31 + 0.02, P < .002), with respect to its content in liver specimens of healthy controls (0.46 + 0.03) and in healthy areas of the same organ in patients with LM (0.41 + 0.03). Tocopherol concentration is further reduced by 50% in malignant liver nodules of HCC, with respect to surrounding cirrhotic tissue, whereas in metastatic liver nodules from digestive neoplasms the tocopherol content is almost twice that of healthy surrounding areas. This unpredictable tocopherol behavior in liver specimens, of secondary as opposed to primary malignancies of the liver, affords further insight into the conflicting effects of liposoluble vitamins employed in the chemopreventive treatment of different malignant diseases, where hepatic tocopherol concentration show opposite trends: halved in primary HCC and doubled in LM of digestive adenocarcinomas, with respect to healthy controls.