Identification and characterization of a 25-lncRNA prognostic signature for early recurrence in hepatocellular carcinoma

Fu, Yi; Wei, Xindong; Han, Qiuqin; Le, Jiamei; Ma, Yujie; Lin, Xinjie; Xu, Yuhui; Liu, Ning; Wang, Xuan; Kong, Xiaoni; Gu, Jinyang; Tong, Ying; Wu, Hailong

Early recurrence is the major cause of poor prognosis in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are deeply involved in HCC prognosis. In this study, we aimed to establish a prognostic lncRNA signature for HCC early recurrence.

The lncRNA expression profile and corresponding clinical data were retrieved from total 299 HCC patients in TCGA database. LncRNA candidates correlated to early recurrence were selected by differentially expressed gene (DEG), univariate Cox regression and least absolute shrinkage and selection operator (LASSO) regression analyses. A 25-lncRNA prognostic signature was constructed according to receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC). Kaplan-Meier and multivariate Cox regression analyses were used to evaluate the performance of this signature. ROC and nomogram were used to evaluate the integrated models based on this signature with other independent clinical risk factors. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) was used to reveal enriched gene sets in the high-risk group. Tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) levels were analyzed with single sample Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (ssGSEA). Immune therapy response prediction was performed with TIDE and SubMap. Chemotherapeutic response prediction was conducted by using Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer (GDSC) pharmacogenomics database.

Compared to low-risk group, patients in high-risk group showed reduced disease-free survival (DFS) in the training (p < 0.0001) and validation cohort (p = 0.0132). The 25-lncRNA signature, AFP, TNM and vascular invasion could serve as independent risk factors for HCC early recurrence. Among them, the 25-lncRNA signature had the best predictive performance, and combination of those four risk factors further improves the prognostic potential. Moreover, GSEA showed significant enrichment of “E2F TARGETS”, “G2M CHECKPOINT”, “MYC TARGETS V1” and “DNA REPAIR” pathways in the high-risk group. In addition, increased TILs were observed in the low-risk group compared to the high-risk group. The 25-lncRNA signature negatively associates with the levels of some types of antitumor immune cells. Immunotherapies and chemotherapies prediction revealed differential responses to PD-1 inhibitor and several chemotherapeutic drugs in the low- and high-risk group.

Our study proposed a 25-lncRNA prognostic signature for predicting HCC early recurrence, which may guide postoperative treatment and recurrence surveillance in HCC patients.


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September 22, 2023


Long non-coding RNA signature, Hepatocellular carcinoma, Early recurrence, Tumor infiltrating lymphocytes