Potential Circulating Biomarkers of Recurrence after Hepatic Resection or Liver Transplantation in Hepatocellular Carcinoma Patients

Cancers (Basel). 2020 May 18;12(5):1275. doi: 10.3390/cancers12051275.


Background: Improving surgical outcomes in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients would greatly benefit from biomarkers. Angiogenesis and inflammation are hallmarks of HCC progression and therapeutic targets. Methods: We retrospectively evaluated preoperative clinical variables and circulating (plasma) biomarkers of angiogenesis and inflammation in a cohort of HCC patients who underwent liver resection (LR) or transplantation (LT). Biomarker correlation with outcomes-freedom of liver recurrence (FLR), disease-free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS)-was tested using univariate and multivariate Cox regression analyses. Results: Survival outcomes associated with sVEGFR1, VEGF and VEGF-C in LT patients and with IL-10 in LR patients. Moreover, in LT patients within Milan criteria, higher plasma VEGF and sVEGFR1 were associated with worse outcomes, while in those outside Milan criteria lower plasma VEGF-C associated with better outcomes. Multivariate analysis indicated that adding plasma VEGF or VEGF-C to a predictive model including Milan criteria and AFP improved prediction of DFS and OS (all p < 0.05). Conclusion: Survival outcomes after LR or LT differentially associated with angiogenic and inflammatory biomarkers. High plasma VEGF correlated with poorer prognosis within Milan criteria while low plasma VEGF-C associated with better prognosis outside Milan criteria. These candidate biomarkers should be further validated to improve patient stratification.

Keywords: HCC; biomarkers; cytokine; liver resection; transplantation.