Optimal surveillance program for hepatocellular carcinoma - getting ready, but not yet

World J Hepatol. 2015 Aug 28;7(18):2133-5. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v7.i18.2133.


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) secondary to chronic viral hepatitis is a major health problem in Asian-Pacific regions due to the endemics of chronic hepatitis B and C virus infection. HCC surveillance has been recommended to patients who are at risk to develop HCC. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of patients still died in long run due to tumor recurrence. The key components of an optimal surveillance program include an accurate tumor biomarker and optimal surveillance interval. Serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), despite of being the most widely used biomarker for HCC surveillance, it was criticized as neither sensitive nor specific. Other HCC biomarkers, including lectin-reactive AFP (AFP-L3), des-gamma carboxyprothrombin, are still under investigations. Recent study showed cancer-associated genome-wide hypomethylation and copy number aberrations by plasma DNA bisulfite sequencing to be accurate with both sensitivity and specificity close to 90% in detecting HCC in a case-control study. Concerning the optimal surveillance interval, we believe one size does not fit all patients. Accurate risk prediction to assist prognostication with well-validated HCC risk scores would be useful to decide the need for HCC surveillance. These key components of an optimal HCC surveillance program should be further validated at a surveillance setting.

Keywords: Antiviral therapy; Biomarkers; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Hepatocellular carcinoma risk scores; Liver stiffness measure; Surveillance program.