Introduction Despite some new treatment possibilities, the improvement in survival rate for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients is still poor due to late diagnosis. The aim of this study was to investigate the diagnostic sensitivity and specificity of protein induced by vitamin K absence or antagonist-II (PIVKAII), Glypican-3 (GP3), Cystatin B (CSTB), squamous cell carcinoma antigen 1 (SCCA1) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) as potential tumour markers for HCC in patients with alcoholic liver cirrhosis (ALC) using imaging techniques (MSCT and MRI) as reference standards. Patients and methods Eighty-three participants were included: 20 healthy volunteers, 31 patients with ALC and 32 patients with HCC. Peripheral blood sampling was performed for each participant, and serum concentrations of PIVKAII, GP3, CSTB, SCCA1 and HGF were determined using commercial ELISA kits. Results Only serum concentrations of PIVKAII were significantly higher in HCC patients as compared with ALC and healthy controls (cut-off: 2.06 µg/L; AUC: 0.903), whereas individual diagnostic performance of other individual compounds was inadequate. The 'best' combination of tumour markers in our study includes all tested markers with AUC of 0.967. Conclusion While novel diagnostic tumour markers are urgently needed, the examined potential tumour markers, with the exception of PIVKAII seem to be inadequate for diagnosing HCC in ALC. Furthermore, probably the future is in finding the best optimal combination of tumour markers for diagnosing HCC based on cost-effectiveness.
Keywords: Tumour markers; cancer; liver disease.