Background: Cancer stem cells (CSCs) play a critical role in tumor development, progression, metastasis and recurrence. 

Aim: To evaluate hepatic expression of CD44 and CD133 in Egyptian patients with HCV-induced chronic liver diseases and hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs), and to assess its correlation with inflammatory activity scores, stages of fibrosis (in chronic hepatitis with or without cirrhosis) and grades of HCC.

Methods: This prospective case-control study was conducted on eighty subjects who attended the Tropical Diseases Department, Al-Azhar University Hospital, and in collaboration with Theodor Bilharz Research Institute (2014-2016). They were divided as follows: A) Control healthy group: Ten individuals with serologically negative HCV-Ab and HBsAg, and histopathologically normal liver, B) Seventy patients subdivided into 3 groups; Twenty subjects each, as: HCV-Ab+ non-cirrhotic, HCV-Ab+ cirrhotic and HCC. Necroinflammatory activity and fibrosis in non-neoplastic liver biopsies were scored according to the METAVIR scoring system. CD44 and CD133 immunostaining was evaluated in all groups semi-quantitatively using H score. Statistical analysis was performed by SPSS version 22, using independent-samples t-test. 

Results: Our study showed a significant increase of mean CD44 & CD133 expression values with disease progression among the groups (p<0.05). Their expressions increased significantly with the inflammatory activity scores and stages of fibrosis, reaching the highest values in A3F4 score compared to A1F1 (p<0.05). Moreover, there was a significant increase of their expressions across HCC grades (p<0.05), however with no significant correlation with focal lesions size. 

Conclusion: CSCs clusters exhibiting CD133+ and/or CD44+ profiles were identified in chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and HCC. CD133 and CD44 expressions significantly corresponded to the increased inflammatory activity, fibrosis stages and higher tumor grades. Therefore, evaluation of CD44 and CD133 expression profiles as CSCs markers in non-neoplastic liver and HCCs can help in development of novel therapeutic agents for HCC targeting and prevention.


Keywords: hepatocellular carcinoma, Cancer stem cell, CD133, CD44, METAVIR
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