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Minerva Medica 2011 October;102(5):363-71


language: English

Diagnostic and prognostic value of alpha-fetoprotein, des-γ-carboxy prothrombin and squamous cell carcinoma antigen immunoglobulin M complexes in hepatocellular carcinoma

Bertino G. 1, Neri S. 2, Bruno C. M. 1, Ardiri A. M. 1, Calvagno G. S. 1, Malaguarnera M. 3, Toro A. 4, Malaguarnera M. 5, Clementi S. 1, Bertino N. 6, Di Carlo I. 4

1 Hepatology Unit,Department of Internal Medicine and Systemic Diseases, Santa Marta Hospital, Catania University, Catania, Italy; 2 Department of Internal Medicine and Systemic Diseases, Policlinic of Catania University, Catania, Italy; 3 Senescence, Urological and Neurological Sciences, University of Catania, Catania, Italy; 4 Department of Surgical Sciences, Organ Transplantation and Advanced Technologies, University of Catania, Cannizzaro Hospital, Catania, Italy; 5 Research Center “The Extreme Senescence, University of Catania, Catania, Italy; 6 Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Catania, Catania, Italy


The hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common malignant tumors. It carries a poor survival rate and has an increasing incidence worldwide. In most cases, HCC is diagnosed at a late stage. Therefore, the prognosis of patients with HCC is generally poor and has a less than 5% 5-year survival rate. The aim of this study was compare the accuracy of α-fetoprotein (AFP), des-γ- carboxy prothrombin (DCP), squamous cell carcinoma antigen-immunoglobulin M complexes (SCCA-IgM Cs) in the early diagnosis and in the prognosis of HCC. A literature search identified the markers for hepatocellular carcinoma. A search of the literature was made using cancer literature and the PubMed database for the following keywords: “markers and HCC”, “α-fetoprotein (AFP) and HCC”, “Des-γ-carboxy prothrombin”(DCP) and HCC, “squamous cell carcinoma antigen-immunoglobulin M complexes” (SCCA-IgM Cs). Despite the large number of studies devoted to the immunohistochemistry of HCC, at the present time, the absolute positive and negative markers for HCC are still lacking, and even those characterized by very high sensitivity and specificity do not have an universal diagnostic usefulness. In conclusion none of the three biomarkers (AFP, DCP, SCCA-IgM Cs) is optimal. According to recent reviews, these biomarkers should be measured simultaneously and in combination with imaging techniques to increase the sensitivity, specificity, diagnostic accuracy and to make a reliable prognosis. Currently the recommended screening strategy for patients with cirrhosis includes the determination of serum AFP levels and an abdominal ultrasound every six months to detect HCC at an earlier stage.

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