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Intervirology. 2008;51 Suppl 1:34-41. doi: 10.1159/000122596. Epub 2008 Jun 10.

Recent advances in tumor markers of human hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Department of Internal Medicine and WHO Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Viral Hepatitis, College of Medicine, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, Republic of Korea.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most devastating malignancies in the world and is the third most common cause of cancer-related death in Korea. Because most HCC are accompanied by chronic liver disease that results from hepatitis B or C viruses, prognosis is still poor even after surgical resection of the tumor. Moreover, diagnosis of advanced HCC still leads to an extremely bleak prognosis. Earlier detection of HCC, therefore, could improve patient survival. Accordingly, the development of tumor markers that can detect HCC at even earlier stages is essential. The functions of tumor markers include prediction of prognosis or therapeutic response as well as diagnosis or screening of cancer. Possible candidate tumor markers may be quantitative alterations in DNA-, RNA- or protein-based molecules in tumorous conditions assessed by various technologies, e.g. serological assays, microarrays, mass spectrometry and proteomics. However, validation and clinical implementation is needed after the discovery of novel genes. An ideal tumor marker for HCC would be sensitive and specific enabling to differentiate it at an early stage from premalignant lesions like dysplastic nodules. In addition, the marker should be easily measurable, reproducible and minimally invasive. Although it is important to identify new biomarkers for HCC, the validation and cost-effectiveness of those markers as diagnostic or prognostic tools need confirmation in large-scale studies in clinical practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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