Pigmented hepatocellular adenomas have a high risk of atypia and malignancy

Taofic Mounajjed, Saba Yasir, Patrice A. Aleff, Michael S. Torbenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Pigment deposition is occasionally seen in hepatocellular adenomas. Several reports suggest that pigmented hepatocellular adenomas have increased risk of malignancy, but these tumors remain incompletely understood. To determine the frequency of pigment deposition, we evaluated and classified 109 well-differentiated hepatocellular neoplasms that were originally diagnosed or submitted in consultation as hepatocellular adenomas and found 27 (25%) pigmented tumors. All were negative on iron stain and in three cases electron microscopy confirmed the pigment was lipofuscin. The lipofuscin intensely stained with glypican-3 in most cases (89%). Of the 27 pigmented tumors, 11 cases (41%) were classified as hepatocellular adenomas, 7 cases (27%) were classified as atypical hepatocellular adenomas/hepatocellular neoplasms of uncertain malignant potential, and 9 cases (33%) were reclassified as well-differentiated hepatocellular carcinomas. Four (of 9) hepatocellular carcinomas arose in pigmented hepatocellular adenomas, giving a rate of malignant transformation in pigmented hepatocellular adenomas of 27%. Of the total 27 pigmented tumors, 78% were in women and 22% in men, but interestingly only men had tumors classified as hepatocellular carcinoma or hepatocellular neoplasm of uncertain malignant potential. Also of note, a total of 10 individuals (37%) had multiple hepatocellular neoplasms but in 9 of these cases the other adenomas were non-pigmented. Importantly, in cases with multiple hepatocellular neoplasms, only the pigmented hepatocellular neoplasms had atypia or malignancy. Genotype-phenotype classification of the pigmented tumors showed different subtypes: HNF1α inactivated (48%), β-catenin activated (26%), inflammatory (15%), concurrently β-catenin activated and inflammatory in 1 hepatocellular adenoma, concurrently HNF-1α inactivated and β-catenin activated in 1 hepatocellular adenoma, and unclassified in 1 hepatocellular carcinoma. In conclusion, hepatocellular adenomas with lipofuscin pigment are a heterogeneous group of adenomas, with HNF-1α inactivation being the commonest genotype. They have an increased risk of atypia and malignancy, especially in males.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1265-1274
Number of pages10
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 3 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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