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Biomarkers for the Early Detection of Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Quick Summary

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, and the cancer with the fastest increase in mortality in the United States, with more than 39,000 cases and 29,000 deaths in 2018. As with many cancers, survival is significantly improved by early detection. The median survival of patients with early HCC is >60 months but <15 months when detected at an advanced stage. Surveillance of at-risk patients improves outcome, but fewer than 20% of those at risk for HCC receive surveillance, and current surveillance strategies have limited sensitivity and specificity. Ideally, blood-based biomarkers with adequate sensitivity or specificity would be available for early detection of HCC; however, the most commonly used biomarker for HCC, alpha-fetoprotein, has inadequate performance characteristics. There are several candidate serum proteomic, glycomic, and genetic markers that have gone through early stages of biomarker validation and have shown promise for the early detection of HCC, but these markers require validation in well-curated cohorts. Ongoing prospective cohort studies will permit retrospective longitudinal (phase III biomarker study) validation of biomarkers. In this review, we highlight promising candidate biomarkers and biomarker panels that have completed phase II evaluation but require further validation prior to clinical use.

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