Background and Aim: Results after curative liver resection in hepatocellular carcinoma are unsatisfactory with regard to high postoperative intrahepatic recurrence and liver failure. This study evaluates telomerase activity in liver with and without tumor as a predictor of recurrence and survival. Materials and Methods: Liver tissue with and without tumor from 53 hepatocellular carcinoma patients receiving curative resection during the period of 1998-2000 was used for detecting telomerase activity by PCR-ELISA. Clinicopathological data were compared to identify predictors of recurrence and survival. Results: Telomerase activity was detected in 98% of liver tissue with tumor and 70% liver tissue without. Telomerase activity in cancerous liver correlated significantly with HCV infection (P = 0.012) and cirrhotic change in liver parenchyma (P = 0.006). Telomerase activity in non-cancerous liver correlated with high serum AFP level (P = 0.002). The telomerase activity of liver tissue with and without tumor is significant higher in patients with recurrence than in those without recurrence, 413.7 ± 100.5 versus 110.8 ± 32.7, P = 0.006, and 34.7 ± 14.2 versus 4.2 ± 1.4, P = 0.039. Recurrence could be predicted by abnormally high tumor telomerase activity (P = 0.026) or by advanced TNM stage (P = 0.001). TNM stage or high serum ALT level could predict multinodular intrahepatic recurrence (P = 0.028 and P = 0.030). High serum AFP combined with high telomerase activity in liver without tumor had a significant ability to predict poor survival (OR: 11.19, CI: 1.95-64.12, P = 0.007). Conclusion: Tumor telomerase is an independent predictor of recurrence. Simultaneous high remnant liver telomerase and high serum AFP is a strong negative predictor of survival.
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