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Open Access Research

After insufficient radiofrequency ablation, tumor-associated endothelial cells exhibit enhanced angiogenesis and promote invasiveness of residual hepatocellular carcinoma

Jian Kong1, Lingqun Kong2, Jinge Kong3, Shan Ke1, Jun Gao1, Xuemei Ding1, Lemin Zheng3, Huichuan Sun2* and Wenbing Sun1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China

2 Liver Cancer Institute, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, China

3 The Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Institute of Systems Biomedicine, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Peking University Health Science Center, Key Laboratory of Molecular Cardiovascular Sciences of Education Ministry, and Key Laboratory of Cardiovascular Molecular Biology and Regulatory Peptides of Health Ministry, Beijing, China

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2012, 10:230  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-10-230

Published: 21 November 2012



The mechanism regarding rapid progression of residual hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) after insufficient radiofrequency ablation (RFA) has been preliminarily discussed. However, most studies have mainly focused on RFA-induced changes in the tumor cells. The present study was designed to determine whether tumor-associated endothelial cells (TAECs) could contribute to the invasiveness of HCC after insufficient RFA.


TAECs were isolated from fresh HCC tissue and characterized. Morphological changes were observed in TAECs after heat treatment for 10 min. TAEC proliferation, migration and tube formation after heat treatment for 10 min at 37°C (control group), and 42 and 47°C (insufficient RFA groups) were examined. The differences in TAECs interactions with HepG2-GFP or HCCLM3-GFP cells among the two insufficient RFA groups and control group were evaluated. The expression of E-selectin, ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 in TAECs was measured. The effects of TAECs on the invasiveness of HepG2-GFP or HCCLM3-GFP cells after insufficient RFA were analyzed. The IL-6, IL-8, MCP-1 and GRO-α concentrations in conditioned medium from TAECs were measured after insufficient RFA. The associated signaling pathways of Akt, ERK1/2, STAT3 and NF-κB were analyzed in TAECs after insufficient RFA.


TAECs expressed the EC-specific markers and took up complexes of Dil-Ac-LDL. Relative to the control group, the proliferation of TAECs was significantly inhibited and their migration and tube formation were significantly enhanced in the insufficient RFA groups. Significantly more HepG2-GFP or HCCLM3-GFP cells adhered to TACEs in these groups than in the control group (all P<0.001), via up-regulated expression of E-selectin, ICAM-1 and VCAM-1. TAECs promoted the invasiveness of HepG2-GFP or HCCLM3-GFP cells after insufficient RFA via the up-regulation of IL-6, IL-8, MCP-1 and GRO-α in conditioned medium (all P<0.05). Insufficient RFA enhanced the activities of Akt, ERK1/2 and NF-κB signaling pathways and inhibited STAT3 signaling pathways.


Insufficient RFA enhanced TAEC migration and tube formation, and this may play a key role in the rapid growth of residual HCC. Increased expression of metastasis-related molecules in TAECs after insufficient RFA may be a potential mechanism for the metastasis of residual HCC.

Radiofrequency ablation; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Tumor-associated endothelial cells; Invasiveness; Metastasis