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Keywords:

  • hepatolithiasis;
  • intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma;
  • c-erbB-2;
  • c-Met;
  • immunohistochemistry

c-erbB-2 and c-Met expression relates to cholangiocarcinogenesis and progression of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma

Aims: The c-erbB-2 and c-Met proto-oncogenes are important for tumour invasiveness and metastasis in many types of malignant tumours. Previous studies have indicated that these proteins are associated with carcinogenesis in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. In this study, we examined c-erbB-2 and c-Met expression by immunohistochemistry in hepatolithiasis, intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and metastatic lymph node, in order to clarify whether these proteins play a role in carcinogenesis and tumour metastasis in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.

Methods and results: In hepatolithiasis, the staining for c-erbB-2 was positive in 14 of the 23 (61%) cases, while staining for c-Met was positive in eight of the 23 (35%) cases. In intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, staining for c-erbB-2 was positive in 45 of the 81 (55%) cases, while staining for c-Met was positive in 28 (35%) cases. The positivity of c-Met staining in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma was significantly higher in the differentiated type of cholangiocarcinoma than in the undifferentiated type. In addition, c-Met-positive staining had an inverted correlation with tumour size, the presence of perineural invasion and the presence of lymph node metastasis. c-Met staining had a significantly higher positivity in cases at an early stage of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. In contrast, the positivity of c-erbB-2 staining in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma was significantly higher in cases with lymph node metastasis than in cases without. In metastatic lymph nodes, the staining for c-erbB-2 was positive in 20 of the 25 (80%) cases, while staining for c-Met was positive in six of the 25 (24%) cases. There was no difference in survival between c-erbB-2-positive and negative patients. However, the patients with c-Met-positive tumours had a significantly longer survival than those with c-Met-negative tumours in the medium survival term. The multivariate analysis showed the presence of lymph node metastasis, lymphatic permeation and histological differentiation to be independent prognostic factors.

Conclusion: These results indicate that increased c-Met expression participates in cholangiocarcinogenesis and in the early developmental stages of intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, while increased c-erbB-2 expression contributes to the development of cholangiocarcinogenesis into an advanced stage associated with tumour metastasis.