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World J Surg Oncol. 2013 Aug 27;11:212. doi: 10.1186/1477-7819-11-212.

Correlation analysis of preoperative serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) level and prognosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) after hepatectomy.

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Cancer Center, The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou 310003, P,R, China.



To investigate the prediction value of preoperative serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) level for the prognosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), by comparing pathological characteristics, recurrence rate and survival rate after hepatectomy.


108 cases of HCC patients who received liver resection in our hospital from 2005 to 2011 were enrolled in this study. According to preoperative serum AFP level, the patients were divided into AFP ≤ 20 ng/mL group, AFP 20 to 400 ng/mL group and AFP > 400 ng/mL group, and the clinicopathological and cytopathological features were compared. All the patients were followed up for 24 months, the postoperative recurrence rates and survival rates were compared and analyzed, and the risk factors for HCC postoperative survival rate were studied by multifactor regression analysis.


Of the 108 cases of HCC patients, there were 42 cases in AFP ≤20 ng/mL group, 28 cases in AFP 20-400 ng/mL group and 39 cases in AFP > 400 ng/mL group. It was shown that cell differentiation degrees (χ² = 20.198, P = 0.000) and microvascular invasion rates (χ² = 20.358, P = 0.000) were significantly different among the three groups. The AFP ≤ 20 ng/mL group showed higher cell differentiation degrees and significantly lower microvascular invasion rates compared to the other groups (P < 0.05). The follow-up data showed that postoperative 2-year recurrence rate (χ² = 6.164, P = 0.046), 18-month survival rate (χ² = 7.647, P = 0.022) and 24-month survival rate (χ² = 6.725, P = 0.035) of the three groups were significantly different, and we found that the AFP ≤ 20 ng/mL group had lower postoperative 2-year recurrence rate, and higher 18-month survival rate and 24-month survival rate than the other two groups (P <0.05). Multiple logistic regression analysis indicated that tumor diameter (≥ 5 cm) and preoperative serum AFP level (> 400 ng/mL) were closely correlated with HCC postoperative survival rate (P <0.05).


It is shown that preoperative serum AFP level has considerable predictive value for the malignant feature and prognosis of HCC. It is suggested that HCC patients with no contraindication of operation and serum AFP ≤ 20 ng/mL can benefit most from primary treatment of hepatectomy. While HCC patients with serum AFP higher than 20 ng/mL need comprehensive therapy besides surgical resection and close follow up.

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