Background: Chronic hepatitis B (CHB) virus infection is a major cause of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), as late diagnosis is the main factor for the poor survival of patients. There is an urgent need for accurate biomarkers for early diagnosis of HCC. The aim of the study was to explore the serum lipidome profiles of hepatitis B-related HCC to identify potential diagnostic biomarkers.
Methods: An ultraperformance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS) lipidomic method was used to characterize serum profiles from HCC (n = 32), liver cirrhosis (LC) (n = 30), CHB (n = 25), and healthy subjects (n = 34). Patients were diagnosed by clinical laboratory and imaging evidence and all presented with CHB while healthy controls had normal liver function and no infectious diseases.
Results: The UPLC-MS-based serum lipidomic profile provided more accurate diagnosis for LC patients than conventional alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) detection. HCC patients were discriminated from LC with 78 % sensitivity and 64 % specificity. In comparison, AFP showed sensitivity and specificity of 38 % and 93 %, respectively. HCC was differentiated from CHB with 100 % sensitivity and specificity using the UPLC-MS approach. Identified lipids comprised glycerophosphocolines, glycerophosphoserines and glycerophosphoinositols.
Conclusions: UPLC-MS lipid profiling proved to be an efficient and convenient tool for diagnosis and screening of HCC in a high-risk population.