Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common cancer worldwide. Cirrhosis caused by hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus or chronic alcohol intake is associated with major risk. Systematic screening for HCC of asymptomatic patients with cirrhosis is needed for earlier detection of small tumors requiring treatment (liver transplantation, surgical resection, percutaneous techniques). The recommended screening strategy among cirrhotic patients is based on regular liver ultrasonography associated with serum α-fetoprotein (AFP) assay. As the performance of AFP is not satisfactory, additional tumoral markers are proposed (des-γ-carboxyprothrombin, glycosylated AFP-L3 fraction). Currently, diagnosis of HCC in cirrhotic patients includes non-invasive tests (imaging after contrast administration, AFP assay); diagnostic biopsy is performed when imaging is limited. After treatment, tumor recurrence is assessed by regular follow-up (AFP assay and imaging). Despite the lack of accurate markers, recent developments in genomic and proteomic approaches will allow the discovery of new biomarkers for primary tumors, as well as for recurrence. This review summarizes the current state of biomarkers for screening, diagnosis and follow-up of HCC, and highlights new perspectives in the field.
Clin Chem Lab Med 2007;45:1169–79.