Clinicopathologic features of patients with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma who are seropositive for α-fetoprotein-L3 and those with combined hepatocellular and cholangiocarcinoma

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Abstract

Background

Some patients who are seropositive for lectin-reactive α-fetoprotein (AFP-L3) have intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC). There have been no studies regarding the features of ICC patients seropositive for AFP-L3. Thus, the purpose of the present paper was to compare the features of ICC patients from the viewpoint of two different tumor markers, AFP-L3 and carbohydrate antigen (CA) 19-9.

Methods

The ICC patients who underwent hepatectomy (n = 51) were divided into three groups, and their clinicopathologic features were compared: (i) group A, seropositive for AFP-L3 ≥ 15%; (ii) group B, seropositive for CA 19-9 ≥ 37 U/mL; and (iii) group C, seronegative for both AFP-L3 and CA 19-9. The features of combined hepatocellular and cholangiocarcinoma (n = 11) were also studied.

Results

Group A had a higher positivity rate for hepatitis viruses than group B (60% vs 20%, P < 0.05). More patients in group A were misdiagnosed as having hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) at surgery (70% vs 5.7%, P < 0.001) who also had chronic liver disease (80% vs 25.7%, P < 0.01) than in group B. Seven, 10 and 11 of the 11 patients with combined hepatocellular and cholangiocarcinoma were seropositive for AFP-L3, CA 19-9 and hepatitis viruses, respectively. Ten were diagnosed as having HCC at surgery and nine had chronic liver disease.

Conclusions

Patients with ICC seropositive for AFP-L3 and those with combined hepatocellular and cholangiocarcinoma have features close to HCC. The present study has, for the first time, identified a subgroup of ICC patients, seropositive for AFP-L3, having features close to HCC that are very different from those of the classical ICC patients seropositive for CA 19-9.

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