Background: Trefoil peptides (TFF-1, 2, 3) are a family of protease-resistant regulatory factors that play a role in mucosal restitution, angiogenesis, apoptosis, and tumor progression. Intestinal trefoil peptide (TFF-3) expression has been demonstrated in benign hepatobiliary diseases, but there are limited data regarding its expression in HCC.
Methods: Thirty consecutive cases of HCC from 1998 to 2003 were studied. Immunohistochemistry was performed on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded blocks of HCC using polyclonal antibody to TFF-3. TFF-3 expression was classified as strong, moderate, weak, focal, and negative. Clinical data were obtained per an IRB-approved protocol.
Results: Median age was 69 yr (range: 39–83 yr). Twenty- three patients were males and 7 were females. Treatments included hepatic resection (n=16), chemo-embolization (n=4), combined modality therapy (n=5) and no treatment (n=4). HCC was well differentiated in 12 (40%), moderately differentiated in 13 (43%), and poorly differentiated in 5 (17%) patients. TFF-3 expression was detected in 28/30 (93.3%) patient samples. Sixteen patients (53%) had moderate and 1 (3%) patient had strong TFF-3 expression. Tumor/normal tissue interface was assessable in 21 cases; 11 cases expressed TFF-3 at the interface. There was a strong correlation between tumor grade and TFF-3 expression, wherein poorly differentiated tumors had moderate/strong TFF-3 expression (p=0.008). There was no correlation between TFF-3 expression and survival (p=0.77). Furthermore, there was no correlation among age, disease stage, and survival.
Conclusion: TFF-3 is commonly expressed in HCC and its expression correlates with tumor grade.