Sorafenib may reduce endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) activity by inhibiting vascular endothelial growth factor receptors (VEGF-R), leading to a decrease in nitric oxide production. In the Italian multicenter ePHAS (eNOS polymorphisms in HCC and sorafenib) study, we analyzed the role of eNOS polymorphisms in relation to clinical outcome in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) receiving sorafenib. Our retrospective study included a training cohort of 41 HCC patients and a validation cohort of 87 HCC patients, all undergoing sorafenib treatment. Three eNOS polymorphisms (eNOS -786T>C, eNOS VNTR 27bp 4a/b and eNOS+894G>T) were analyzed by direct sequencing or Real Time PCR in relation to progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) (log-rank test). In univariate analysis, training cohort patients homozygous for eNOS haplotype (HT1:T-4b at eNOS-786/eNOS VNTR) had a lower median PFS (2.6 vs. 5.8 months, P < 0.0001) and OS (3.2 vs.14.6 months, P = 0.024) than those with other haplotypes. In the validation set, patients homozygous for HT1 had a lower median PFS (2.0 vs. 6.7 months, P < 0.0001) and OS (6.4 vs.18.0 months, P < 0.0001) than those with other haplotypes. Multivariate analysis confirmed this haplotype as the only independent prognostic factor. Our results suggest that haplotype HT1 in the eNOS gene may be capable of identifying a subset of HCC patients who are resistant to sorafenib
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