Serum des-gamma-carboxy prothrombin levels determined by a new generation of sensitive immunoassays in patients with small-sized hepatocellular carcinoma

Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Mar;94(3):650-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.1999.00930.x.


Objective: Des-gamma-carboxy prothrombin (DCP), also called protein induced by vitamin K absence or antagonist II (PIVKA-II), is a tumor marker complementary to AFP for the diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Currently available immunoassays for DCP are not sensitive enough to detect HCC at an early stage. Recently, two new immunoassays with enhanced sensitivity were developed. The aim of this study was to assess the diagnostic values of the new methods in patients with small-sized HCC.

Methods: Coded serum samples obtained from 36 patients with small-sized and single-nodular HCC (< or = 3 cm in diameter) and 49 patients with posthepatitic cirrhosis not carrying HCC were analyzed. DCP levels were determined in three different ways: 1) conventional EIA; 2) a new immunoassay using the electrochemiluminescence (ECLIA) detection system; and 3) a new immunoradiometric assay (IRMA). Lectin-reactive profiles of AFP (AFP-L3) were also determined.

Results: In 36 patients with small-sized HCC, the rates of abnormal values obtained by the conventional, ECLIA, and IRMA methods were 2.7%, 27.8%, and 16.7%, respectively. An ROC analysis of the two new methods (ECLIA vs IRMA) revealed a better performance by the ECLIA method (p < 0.05). The true positive rate of AFP-L3 was 22.2%, whereas a combination assay of ECLIA for DCP and AFP-L3 resulted in a 41.7% sensitivity with a specificity of 90%.

Conclusions: Compared with the conventional method, the sensitivity in detecting small-sized HCC was increased in the two new DCP immunoassays (ECLIA and IRMA). The overall performance as evaluated by an ROC analysis was significantly better in ECLIA than in IRMA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay* / methods
  • Immunoradiometric Assay
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Protein Precursors / analysis*
  • Prothrombin / analysis*
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Biomarkers
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Protein Precursors
  • acarboxyprothrombin
  • Prothrombin