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Prognostic value of desmoplastic stroma in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma


Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas (iCCs) are primary tumors of the liver characterized by the presence of a desmoplastic stroma. While tumor stroma may have a protective or a pejorative value depending on the type of malignant disease, the precise role of the desmoplastic stroma in iCC remains poorly understood. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the prognostic value of stromal compartment in iCC through a multiparametric morphological analysis. Forty-nine surgically resected iCCs were included. For all cases, tumor paraffin blocks of iCCs were selected for stromal morphological characterization through quantitative and qualitative approaches using immunohistochemistry and second-harmonic generation imaging. Intratumor heterogeneity was also evaluated in regards with the different stromal features. High proportionated stromal area (PSA) (defined by stromal to tumor area ratio) was inversely correlated with vascular invasion (62.5% vs 95.7%, p = 0.006) and positively correlated with well-differentiated grade (60% vs 12.5%, p = 0.001). Patients with high PSA had a better disease-free survival (DFS) than patients with low stromal area (60% vs 10%, p = 0.077). Low activated stroma index (defined by cancer-associated fibroblasts number to stromal area ratio) was associated with a better DFS (60% vs 10%, p = 0.05). High collagen reticulation index (CRI), defined as the number of collagen fiber branches within the entire length of the collagen network, was associated with a poorer overall survival (42% vs NR, p = 0.026). Furthermore, we showed that CRI was also an homogeneous marker throughout the tumor. Based on morphological features, desmoplastic stroma seems to exert a protective effect in patients with iCC. Stromal collagen reticulation may provide additional clinically relevant information. In addition, these data support the potential value to evaluate CRI in biopsy specimen.

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Fig. 1: Representative digital image obtained from a red sirius stained iCC section (analyzed by Aperio imaging software).
Fig. 2: Tumor invasion patterns in iCC.
Fig. 3: Second-harmonic generation (SHG) imaging obtained from iCC TMA.
Fig. 4: Immunostaining of smooth muscle actin (AML), CD31 (MVD), and periostin in iCC.


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Correspondence to Nathalie Guedj.

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Guedj, N., Blaise, L., Cauchy, F. et al. Prognostic value of desmoplastic stroma in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. Mod Pathol 34, 408–416 (2021).

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