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Serological markers of liver cancer.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China.


Serological markers for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are important for early diagnosis, as well as monitoring of tumour aggressiveness, treatment responsiveness, recurrence and survival. The three most common markers are total alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), Lens culinaris agglutinin-reactive AFP (AFP-L3) and protein induced by vitamin K absence or antagonist-II (PIVKA-II). Total AFP has the sensitivity of 60% and specificity of 90% for the detection of HCC. Increase in the percentage of AFP-L3 over the total AFP (>10%) is very specific for small HCC. PIVKA-II is also more specific than total AFP in detecting HCC. AFP-L3 and PIVKA-II levels correlate with tumour aggressiveness and prognosis. All three markers are useful for monitoring treatment responsiveness and tumour recurrence. Since the levels of the three markers are independent of each other, combination of measurement of two or three markers will increase the sensitivity and diagnostic accuracy. Some novel markers including glypican-3 are being extensively studied.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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