HCC patients typically present at an advanced tumor stage, in which surgical therapies cannot be used. Screening ultrasound exams can increase the numbers of patients diagnosed with small tumors, but are often not used in patients at risk for HCC. We evaluated clinically-available and cheap potential blood tests as biomarkers for screening patients at risk for HCC.
A comparison was made of commonly used blood count and liver function parameters in a group of patients (n=101) with small HCCs (<3cm) or without HCC (n=275), who presented for liver transplantation in our institute.
Significant differences were found for blood lymphocytes and AST levels. This 2-parameter combination was found to be significantly different between patients with small HCCs versus no HCC. Using the combination of lymphocytes and AST levels to dichotomize the HCC patients, only blood levels of alpha-fetoprotein amongst the tumor characteristics, were found to be significantly different amongst the 2 HCC groups, as well as levels of blood total bilirubin, ALKP and PLR ratio. The results were confirmed using a separate smaller cohort of non-transplanted small size HCC patients.
The combination of elevated blood levels of lymphocyte counts and AST levels holds promise for screening of patients with chronic liver disease who are at risk for HCC.