Malignant transformation of liver fatty acid binding protein-deficient hepatocellular adenomas: histopathologic spectrum of a rare phenomenon

Publication Date


Journal Title

Mod Pathol


© 2019, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to United States & Canadian Academy of Pathology. The molecular classification of hepatocellular adenomas highlights a distinctive genotype-phenotype correlation. Malignant transformation is an exceptionally rare complication of hepatocyte nuclear factor 1α (HNF1A)-inactivated hepatocellular adenomas. This subtype is characterized by loss of liver fatty acid binding protein immunoexpression. In this study, we characterized the histopathologic spectrum of 13 liver fatty acid binding protein-deficient hepatocellular adenoma cases showing malignant transformation from multiple centers. Clinicopathologic characteristics of these patients were evaluated. Stains for reticulin, liver fatty acid binding protein, beta-catenin and glutamine synthetase were applied to these lesions. Moreover, the findings were compared to patients with β-catenin mutated hepatocellular adenoma. Liver fatty acid binding protein-deficient hepatocellular adenomas with borderline features/carcinoma were seen predominantly in females (77%) with an average age of 46 ± 18 years and multiple lesions (77%; five patients with adenomatosis). Meanwhile, β-catenin mutated hepatocellular adenoma patients with malignant transformation were predominantly male (67%, p = 0.018) with single lesion (86%, p = 0.0009). The largest liver fatty acid binding protein-deficient hepatocellular adenoma nodule in each patient ranged from 4 to 15.5 cm. Loss of liver fatty acid binding protein by immunohistochemistry was noted in all adenoma and borderline/carcinoma components. Features of malignant transformation were pseudoglandular architecture (85%), cytologic atypia (85%), architectural atypia (100%) and lack of steatosis (100%). Other findings included myxoid change (39%), peliosis (46%) and sinusoidal dilatation (46%). Molecular studies confirmed somatic inactivation of HNF1A in 3 cases and absence of TERT promotor and exon 3 CTNNB1 mutations in five cases. To summarize, liver fatty acid binding protein-deficient hepatocellular adenoma with malignant transformation is most frequently seen in female patients with multiple lesions. Most of these lesions demonstrate pseudoglandular architecture, cytologic and architectural atypia, with lack of steatosis. The natural history of these lesions is relatively benign with the exception of disease recurrence in 1 patient.

Volume Number


Issue Number



665 - 675

Document Type





School of Medicine

Primary Department

Pathology and Laboratory Medicine





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