Omics-derived hepatocellular carcinoma risk biomarkers for precision care of chronic liver diseases

Hepatol Res. 2020 Jul;50(7):817-830. doi: 10.1111/hepr.13506. Epub 2020 May 15.


Precise hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) risk prediction will play increasingly important roles with the contemporary HCC etiologies, that is, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and resolved hepatitis C virus infection. Because the HCC incidence rate in this emerging patient population is relatively low (~1% per year), identification of a subset of patients at the highest risk is critical to concentrate the effort and resources of regular HCC screening to those who most need it. Omics profiling has been derived using several candidate HCC risk biomarkers, which could refine HCC screening by enabling individual risk-based personalized or risk-stratified patient management. Various types of biomolecules have been explored as sources of information to predict HCC risk at various time horizons. Germline DNA polymorphisms likely reflect race/ethnicity- and/or etiology-specific susceptibility to HCC development or chronic liver disease progression toward carcinogenesis. Transcriptomic dysregulations in the diseased liver capture functional molecular status supporting oncogenesis such as inflammatory pathway and myofibroblast activation. Circulating nucleic acids, proteins, and metabolites could serve as less-invasive measures of molecular HCC risk. Characterization of gut microbiota could also inform HCC risk estimation. Each biomarker could have its niche of clinical application depending on logistics of use, performance, and costs with a goal to eventually improve patient prognosis as a part of the whole algorithm of chronic liver disease management.

Keywords: biomarker; hepatocellular carcinoma; omics; precision medicine.

Publication types

  • Review