The expression of FLNA and CLU in PBMCs as a novel screening marker for hepatocellular carcinoma

Sci Rep. 2021 Jul 21;11(1):14838. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-94330-1.


Early detection improves survival and increases curative probability in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) can provide an inexpensive, less-invasive and highly accurate method. The objective of this study is to find the potential marker for HCC screening, utilizing gene expression of the PBMCs. Data from the NCBI GEO database of gene expression in HCC patients and healthy donor's PBMCs was collected. As a result, GSE 49515 and GSE 58208 were found. Using both, a statistical significance test was conducted in each gene expression of each data set which resulted in 187 genes. We randomized three selected genes (FLNA, CAP1, and CLU) from the significant p-value group (p-values < 0.001). Then, a total of 76 healthy donors, 153 HCC, 20 hepatic fibrosis, 20 non-alcoholic fatty liver were collected. Quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) was performed in cDNA from all blood samples from the qRT-PCR, The Cycle threshold (Ct) value of FLNA, CLU, CAP1 of HCC group (28.47 ± 4.43, 28.01 ± 3.75, 29.64 ± 3.90) were lower than healthy group (34.23 ± 3.54, 32.90 ± 4.15, 32.18 ± 5.02) (p-values < 0.0001). The accuracy, sensitivity and specificity of these genes as a screening tool were: FLNA (80.8%, 88.0%, 65.8%), CLU (63.4%, 93.3%, 31.3%), CAP1 (67.2%, 83.3%, 39.1%). The tests were performed in two and three gene combinations. Results demonstrated high accuracy of 86.2%, sensitivity of 85% and specificity of 88.4% in the FLNA and CLU combination. Furthermore, after analyzed using hepatic fibrosis and non-alcoholic fatty liver as a control, the FLNA and CLU combination is shown to have accuracy of 76.9%, sensitivity of 77.6% and specificity of 75%. Also, we founded that our gene combination performs better than the current gold standard for HCC screening. We concluded that FLNA and CLU combination have high potential for being HCC novel markers. Combined with current tumor markers, further research of the gene's expression might help identify more potential markers and improve diagnosis methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / genetics*
  • Clusterin / genetics*
  • Clusterin / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Filamins / genetics*
  • Filamins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism*
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Liver Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CLU protein, human
  • Clusterin
  • FLNA protein, human
  • Filamins