Background. We aimed to determine whether hepatitis B virus (HBV) pre-S deletion was an independent factor for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Methods. Pre-S deletions were determined in HBV isolates from 115 chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients with HCC. Sixty-nine patients were further matched with 69 CHB patients without HCC for age, sex, hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) status, and HBV genotype.
Results. HBV pre-S deletions were clustered mainly in the 3' end of pre-S1 and 5' end of pre-S2 regions. Adjusted for confounding risk factors, patients with HCC had a higher prevalence of HBV with pre-S deletions than did patients without HCC (23 [33.3%] of 69 vs 11 [15.9%] of 69; P = .018; odds ratio [OR], 2.64). In particular, only pre-S2 deletions but not pre-S1 deletions were significantly associated with the development of HCC (P = .020). A higher prevalence of pre-S deletions was observed in HBV isolates from HCC patients under the age of 50 years than from those older than 50 years (10 [62.5%] of 16 vs 13 [24.5%] of 53; P = .012; OR, 5.13). Emergence of de novo pre-S deletions was documented before the development of HCC.
Conclusions. HBV pre-S2 deletions were an independent factor associated with the development of HCC. Its oncogenic role may be more important in young patients with HCC.