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Int J Clin Exp Pathol 2013;6(4):711-717

Original Article
UNC51-like kinase 1 as a potential prognostic biomarker for hepato-cellular carcinoma

Hongtao Xu, Hong Yu, Xiaoyan Zhang, Xiaoying Shen, Kehao Zhang, Haihui Sheng, Shengbin Dai, Hengjun Gao

Department of Hepatology, Taizhou People’s Hospital, Jiangsu, China; Department of Pathology, Taizhou People’s Hospital, Jiangsu, China;
National Engineering Center for Biochip at Shanghai, Shanghai, China; CMC Biobank and Translational medicine Institute, Jiangsu, China;
Department of Oncology, Taizhou People’s Hospital, Jiangsu, China; Institute of Digestive Disease, Department of Gastroenterology, Tongji
Hospital affiliated to Tongji Medical College, Tongji University, Shanghai, China; Shanghai Engineering Center for Molecular Medicine,
Shanghai, China

Received January 17, 2013; Accepted February 27, 2013; Epub March 15, 2013; Published April 1, 2013

Abstract: Autophagy is a fundamental cell biological process that confers stress tolerance, limits damage, and sustains viability under adverse
conditions. Defective autophagy is associated with diverse diseases. The study aimed to investigate the relationship between UNC51-like
kinase 1 (ULK1) expression and clinicopathological characteristics as well as survival in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Expression levels of ULK1 in 55 paired HCC and paracancerous tissues were examined using immunohistochemistry. Although not
statistically significant, the expression of ULK1 in adjacent peritumoural tissue was lower than those in HCC tissues (P = 0.113). Expression
level of ULK1 was significantly associated with tumor size (P = 0.015) after adjusted for age, sex, histologic grade, cirrhosis and TNM. Survival
analysis showed that patients with high ULK1 expression had worse survival time than those with low ULK1 expression (hazard rate = 2.684,
95% CI 1.029–7.006, P = 0.044). The findings of the present study provide evidence that ULK1 represents a potential novel prognostic
biomarker for HCC patients and may play an important role during the progression of HCC. (IJCEP1301033).

Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma, autophagy, UNC51-like kinase 1, survival, biomarker

Address correspondence to: Dr. Hengjun Gao, Institute of Digestive Disease, Department of Gastroenterology, Tongji Hospital affiliated to
Tongji Medical College, Tongji University, Shanghai, China. Phone: +86 523 51320287; Fax: +86 523 51320288; E-mail:
hengjun_gao@shbiochip.com; Dr. Shengbin Dai, Department of Oncology, Taizhou People’s Hospital, Jiangsu, China. Phone: +86 523
86333483; Fax: +86 523 86333483; E-mail: dai_shengbin@yahoo.cn