Steatohepatitic Hepatocellular Carcinoma (SH-HCC): A Distinctive Histological Variant of HCC in Hepatitis C Virus-related Cirrhosis With Associated NAFLD/NASH

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In explant livers with chronic hepatitis C (HCV-C) we have noted a distinctive histologic variant that we have termed steatohepatitic hepatocellular carcinoma (SH-HCC) with features resembling non-neoplastic steatohepatitis, including large droplet steatosis, ballooning of malignant hepatocytes, Mallory-Denk bodies, inflammation, and pericellular fibrosis. This study was undertaken to further describe the characteristics and prevalence of this histologic variant in HCV-C and any possible association with underlying risk factors for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). We selected two 2-year periods (mid-2003 to mid-2005 and 2007 to 2008), from which selected explant livers with HCV-C and HCC were examined to determine the characteristics and frequency of SH-HCC. The underlying cirrhotic liver was also reassessed for steatosis and evidence of steatohepatitis. Clinical records were consulted for concomitant NAFLD and NASH risk factors. The SH-HCC variant was found in a total of 22 of 62 HCC cases (35.5%). Fourteen of the 22 patients with SH-HCC (63.6%) had at least one known risk factor for NAFLD/NASH including diabetes (6 of 22, 27.3%), obesity (6 of 22, 27.3%), hypertension (11 of 22, 50%), and hyperlipidemia (5 of 22, 27.8%). In 14 of the 22 cases (63.6%) of SH-HCC, the non-neoplastic liver showed changes of NAFLD/NASH superimposed on otherwise typical features of HCV-C. In conclusion, in our series of HCV-C explants, approximately one-third of HCCs show a distinctive histological variant termed SH-HCC. Underlying risk factors for NAFLD and for NASH were identified in 63.6% of our cases. Moreover, non-neoplastic tissue in HCV-C explants showed changes of NAFLD/NASH in 63.6% of cases. These results suggest a possible NAFLD/NASH pathway leading to SH-HCC in the setting of HCV-C which requires further investigation in the future.

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