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Potential role of leptin expression in hepatocellular carcinoma
  1. S-N Wang1,
  2. Y-T Yeh2,
  3. S-F Yang3,
  4. C-Y Chai3,
  5. K-T Lee1
  1. 1Division of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Department of Surgery, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
  2. 2Institute of Medicine, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung
  3. 3Department of Pathology, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital
  1. Correspondence to:
    K-T Lee
    Department of Surgery, Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital, No 100, Tzyou 1st Road, Kaohsiung 807, Taiwan; ktlee{at}


Background: Obesity is associated with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The association may result from the aberrant expression of adipokines.

Aim: To explore the potential biological effect and prognostic value of leptin, one of the adipokines, in HCC.

Methods: Immunohistochemistry was used to evaluate the expression of leptin in 68 patients with HCC. The expression of Ki-67 and microvessel density (MVD) of tumorous lesions in HCC were also analysed. The result of leptin expression was further correlated with Ki-67 expression, intratumour MVD, clinicopathological characteristics, overall survival and the postoperative use of medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA).

Results: High leptin expression was seen in 60.3% of patients with HCC and was significantly correlated with intratumour MVD (high v low; 59.2 (standard deviation 3.2) v 44.2 (19.5), p = 0.004), but not with Ki-67 expression. No marked correlation was seen between leptin expression and clinicopathological characteristics. However, using a multivariate Cox’s proportional hazards model, leptin expression was a predictor for improved overall survival of patients with HCC (odds ratio 0.16; 95% confidence interval 0.03 to 0.87; p = 0.033). In addition, the Kaplan–Meier survival curve showed that high leptin expression was associated with a better survival in patients with HCC, treated postoperatively with MPA (p = 0.008, log rank test).

Conclusion: High leptin expression was associated with an increased intratumour MVD and thus may be associated with HCC development. In addition, high leptin expression was a predictor for improved survival of patients with HCC, treated postoperatively with MPA.

  • HCC, hepatocellular carcinoma
  • MPA, medroxyprogesterone acetate
  • MVD, microvessel density
  • SEM, standard error of mean

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  • Published Online First 24 March 2006

  • Funding: This work was supported by grants 93-2314-B-037-089 and 94-2314-B-037-041 from the National Science Council, Republic of China.

  • Competing interests: None declared.