Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common cancers worldwide. It has been widely established that the early detection of HCC enables more treatment options with improvements in prognosis and survival.
Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the diagnostic accuracy of both circulating miR-215 and squamous cell carcinoma antigen-IgM (SCCA-IgM) as serum biomarkers for HCC by examining their diagnostic sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, and predictive values in hepatitis C virus (HCV)-induced HCC patients.
Subjects and methods: This study included 60 patients with HCV-related HCC. In addition, 60 patients with HCV-related liver cirrhosis (LC) and 60 apparently healthy subjects were involved, and served as diseased and healthy control groups, respectively. The relative expression levels of miR-215 were detected using quantitative real-time PCR. SCCA-IgM levels in serum were measured by enzyme immunoassay. We used receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve to calculate the diagnostic accuracy against alpha-fetoprotein (AFP).
Results: Relative miR-215 expression levels increased the most in HCC patients compared to that in healthy or diseased controls (P<0.001). Serum concentration of SCCA-IgM was significantly higher in HCC group than that in the two control groups. We performed multivariate analysis using AFP level, focal lesion size, and portal vein thrombosis as independent variables. ROC curves showed that the optimum diagnostic miR-215 cutoff value for identifying HCC patients from cirrhotic ones was 417 (sensitivity, 97%; specificity, 91%) and for SCCA-IgM was 95 AU/mL (sensitivity, 92%; specificity, 98%). Moreover, the superiority of both miR-215 and SCCA-IgM to AFP is obvious in our study and this superiority is more evident in distinguishing HCC with AFP levels <200 ng/mL and HCC patients with small-sized focal lesions from cirrhotic patients.
Conclusion: Cell-free miR-215 and serum SCCA-IgM could be used for early diagnosis of HCC either each one as a single marker or with AFP complement measurement.
Keywords: AFP; HCC; LC; SCCA-IgM; miR-215.