The prognostic value of postoperative circulating cell-free DNA in operable hepatocellular carcinoma

Scand J Gastroenterol. 2020 Dec;55(12):1441-1446. doi: 10.1080/00365521.2020.1839127. Epub 2020 Oct 29.


Background: Tumor biomarkers are eagerly needed in monitoring the recurrence of operable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) is a promising noninvasive molecular biomarker for HCC. The current study aimed to evaluate the clinical significance of the postoperative cfDNA in operable HCC.

Methods: This study enrolled 82 HCC patients from January 2018 to June 2019. All patients underwent liver surgery and were pathologically diagnosed with HCC. Postoperative blood samples were collected from each patient. A fluorometric dsDNA assay was used to measure the concentration of cfDNA. We explore the correlation between cfDNA and recurrence. Kaplan-Meier's curves were used to evaluate the recurrence-free survival (RFS). Univariate and multivariate Cox regression analyses were used for assessing the relative clinical variables in predicting recurrence.

Results: Of the 82 HCC patients, 72 (87%) patients are male and the average age was 52.7 ± 12.8 years. The cfDNA-low and cfDNA-high groups had median recurrence times of 19.5 months and 14.0 months, respectively (p = .023). Multivariate analysis showed that postoperative cfDNA, tumour number and microvascular invasion (p < .050) were independent risk factors for recurrence in operable HCC.

Conclusions: Postoperative cfDNA is still a promising marker to predict prognosis in postoperative HCC patients although prospective and large multicenter clinical study is needed to further validate the relationship between cfDNA and HCC recurrence.

Keywords: Hepatocellular carcinoma; circulating cell-free DNA; hepatectomy; recurrence.