Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common primary malignant liver tumor, usually arises in the setting of liver cirrhosis (LC), and has a poor prognosis. The recently discovered Th2-cytokine interleukin-33 (IL-33) is a possible mediator in pancreatic and gastric carcinogeneses. IL-33 binds to its receptor and to soluble ST2 (sST2), which thereby acts as a regulator. The role of IL-33 and sST2 in HCC has not been elucidated yet.
Methods: We conducted a case-control study with 130 patients and 50 healthy controls (HCs). Sixty-five patients suffered from HCC and 65 patients had LC without HCC. We assessed serum IL-33 and sST2 levels and their association with established prognostic scores, liver function parameters, and overall survival (OS).
Results: No significant difference in IL-33 serum levels was found in HCC compared to LC and HCs. IL-33 levels did not correlate with OS, liver function parameters, the Model for End-Stage Liver Disease (MELD) score, or the Cancer of the Liver Italian Program (CLIP) score. sST2 levels were significantly elevated in LC and HCC patients compared to HCs (P < .0001). Mean sST2 levels in LC were higher than in HCC (P < .0001), but a significant association with OS was only observed in the HCC group (P = .003). sST2 in HCC correlated with the CLIP score, the MELD score, and liver function parameters.
Conclusion: In the present study, the serum concentration of sST2 was associated with OS of HCC. Therefore, sST2 may be considered as a new prognostic marker in HCC and is worth further evaluation.