(HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers say they've identified a pattern of gene activity that helps predict the spread of liver cancer.
"When we used the gene signature of immune cells in the liver, we could predict tumors that would metastasize in 92 percent of the samples we studied," study leader Xin Wei Wang, head of the Liver Carcinogenesis Unit at the U.S. National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research, said in a prepared statement.
They detected this unique pattern of activity in 17 genes contained in immune cells found in normal tissue surrounding a liver tumor. This set includes genes that encode messages for cytokines -- immune cell proteins that send out cell-to-cell signals aimed at directing the immune response.
Increased levels of cytokines are associated with a poor prognosis in cancer patients.
"This is the first example where we can stratify HCC (heptocellular carcinoma) patients to identify those who would benefit from certain post-surgical treatments to prevent metastases and recurrence," Wang said.
The study included 115 HCC patients. The findings were published in the August issue of Cancer Cell.
The American Cancer Society has more about liver cancer.