A novel two-step bioinformatics strategy was applied for identification of signatures with therapeutic implications in hepatitis-associated HCC. Transcriptional profiles from HBV- and HCV-associated HCC samples were compared with non-tumor liver controls. Resulting HCC modulated genes were subsequently compared with different non-tumor tissue samples. Two related signatures were identified, namely "HCC-associated" and "HCC-specific". Expression data were validated by RNA-Seq analysis carried out on unrelated HCC samples and protein expression was confirmed according to The Human Protein Atlas (http://proteinatlas.org/), a public repository of immunohistochemistry data. Among all, aldo-keto reductase family 1 member B10, and IGF2 mRNA-binding protein 3 were found strictly HCC-specific with no expression in 18/20 normal tissues. Target peptides for vaccine design were predicted for both proteins associated with the most prevalent HLA-class I and II alleles. The described novel strategy showed to be feasible for identification of HCC-specific proteins as highly potential target for HCC immunotherapy.
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