Prediction of recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma after curative ablation using three tumor markers

Hepatology. 2006 Dec;44(6):1518-27. doi: 10.1002/hep.21408.


Three tumor markers for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are available in daily practice in Japan: alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), des-gamma-carboxy prothrombin (DCP), and lens culinaris agglutinin-reactive fraction of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP-L3). To elucidate the predictability of these tumor markers on HCC recurrence after curative ablation, we enrolled 416 consecutive patients with naïve HCC who had been treated by percutaneous ablation at our department from July 1997 to December 2002. Tumor marker levels were determined immediately before and 2 months after the treatment. Complete ablation was defined on CT findings as nonenhancement in the entire lesion with a safety margin. Tumor recurrence was also defined as newly developed lesions on CT that showed hyperattenuation in the arterial phase with washout in the late phase. We assessed the predictability of recurrence via tumor markers in multivariate analysis, using proportional hazard regression after adjusting for other significant factors in univariate analysis. Until the end of follow-up, tumor recurrence was identified in 277 patients. Univariate analysis revealed the following factors to be significant for recurrence: platelet count; size and number of tumors; AFP, AFP-L3, and DCP preablation; and AFP and AFP-L3 postablation. Multivariate analysis indicated that AFP >100 ng/mL and AFP-L3 >15%, both pre- and postablation, were significant predictors. The positivity of AFP and AFP-L3 preablation that turned negative postablation was not significant. In conclusion, tumor markers pre- and post-ablation were significant predictors for HCC recurrence and can complement imaging modalities in the evaluation of treatment efficacy.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / therapy
  • Catheter Ablation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Liver Neoplasms / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnosis*
  • Plant Lectins / immunology
  • Protein Precursors / blood*
  • Prothrombin
  • alpha-Fetoproteins / analysis*


  • Biomarkers
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Plant Lectins
  • Protein Precursors
  • alpha-Fetoproteins
  • lentil lectin
  • acarboxyprothrombin
  • Prothrombin