Source Department of Radiology, Research Institute of Radiological Science, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: To determine whether magnetic resonance (MR) imaging features differ between hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) with and without expression of progenitor cell markers, such as cytokeratin (CK) 19 and epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM).
METHODS: Sixty-three patients with 71 HCCs who underwent surgery after preoperative gadoxetic acid-enhanced MR imaging were evaluated. HCCs expressing progenitor cell markers were defined as showing CK19 or EpCAM expression. MR imaging features, including the fat component, arterial enhancement (global vs. peripheral), dynamic enhancement (washout vs. progressive or persistent), nodule-in-nodule appearance and MR gross morphology (expanding vs. non-expanding), were compared between HCCs with and without progenitor cell markers expression. Lesion-to-liver signal intensity ratio (SIR) and apparent diffusion coefficient values were compared using an independent samples t-test. Early recurrence rates were also compared.
RESULTS: HCCs expressing progenitor cell markers were more commonly of the non-expanding type (P = 0.016), more frequently had a progressive or persistent dynamic enhancement pattern (P = 0.008) and less frequently demonstrated a nodule-in-nodule appearance (P = 0.009). HCCs expressing progenitor cell markers had significantly higher SIRs on diffusion-weighted images (DWIs) (b = 50 and 800, P < 0.001; b = 400, P = 0.001) and a significantly lower SIR on hepatobiliary phase images (P = 0.024). The early recurrence rate was significantly higher in patients with prior HCCs that expressed progenitor cell markers (P = 0.045).
CONCLUSIONS: HCCs expressing progenitor cell markers can be characterized according to their non-expanding MR gross morphology, persistent or progressive dynamic enhancement patterns, higher SIRs on DWIs, lower SIRs on hepatobiliary phase images and less frequent nodule-in-nodule appearance.