Background: The outcome of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains poor because of late diagnosis. We determined the performances of α -1-acid glycoprotein (AAG) and des-γ-carboxy prothrombin (DCP) for the diagnosis of HCC, especially for α-fetoprotein (AFP)-low HCC.
Methods: Of the 220 patients included in this retrospective study, 124 had HCC, and 61 (49%) of these were AFP-low HCC (AFP ≤ 20 ng/mL). The remaining 96 patients, including 49 with chronic hepatitis B or C and 47 with cirrhosis, were considered as control. Plasma AAG was analyzed using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and confirmed using Western blot technique.
Results: When all patients with HCC were evaluated, the area under receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves for AAG (0.94, 95% CI: 0.91-0.97) and DCP (0.92, 95% CI: 0.88-0.95) were similar (P = 0.40). AAG had better area under ROC curve (0.96, 95% CI: 0.94-0.99) than DCP (0.87, 95% CI: 0.81-0.93) for AFP-low HCC (P < 0.05). At the specificity 95%, the sensitivity of AAG was higher in AFP-low HCC than in AFP-high HCC (82% and 62%, respectively). In contrast, higher sensitivity was obtained from DCP in discriminating HCC patients with low AFP than that in high AFP (57% and 90%, respectively).
Conclusion: Our cross-sectional study showed that AAG was better performance in diagnosing HCC patients with low AFP, while DCP did better in those with high AFP.