Until now, methods of detecting malignant growths have often been based on the concentration of particular substances – called 'markers' – present in the blood. For the detection of HCC, only one marker (AFP) is generally used. However, this marker has a low specificity and is frequently inadequate because of false-positive results.
A new test for detecting HCC was developed by VIB researchers connected to Ghent University, in collaboration with research centers in Beijing and Shanghai in China. By examining blood concentrations in Chinese patients with cirrhosis of the liver due to a hepatitis B virus infection, they found that the quantities of two particular sugar groups that appear on the blood proteins varied according to the stage of the disease. Furthermore, these values correlated with the size of the tumor. The ratio of these values forms the basis of the new blood test. The researchers were able to make the correct diagnosis in 70% of the cases − a success rate that equals that of the AFP tumor marker currently being used in the clinic.
When the AFP test is used in combination with the new test, the accuracy of HCC diagnosis rises dramatically. The new test succeeds in detecting liver cancer in more than half of the patients with cirrhosis of the liver for which the AFP test provides no answer. This test would allow frequent and non-invasive analyses to be carried out on cirrhosis patients, which would enable scientists to detect liver cancer in an earlier stage and to closely monitor the development of the disease.
MEDICA.de; Source: VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology