Published online Oct 7, 2015. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i37.10573
Peer-review started: March 18, 2015
First decision: April 23, 2015
Revised: May 21, 2015
Accepted: August 31, 2015
Article in press: August 31, 2015
Published online: October 7, 2015
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Although the prognosis of patients with HCC is generally poor, the 5-year survival rate is > 70% if patients are diagnosed at an early stage. However, early diagnosis of HCC is complicated by the coexistence of inflammation and cirrhosis. Thus, novel biomarkers for the early diagnosis of HCC are required. Currently, the diagnosis of HCC without pathological correlation is achieved by analyzing serum α-fetoprotein levels combined with imaging techniques. Advances in genomics and proteomics platforms and biomarker assay techniques over the last decade have resulted in the identification of numerous novel biomarkers and have improved the diagnosis of HCC. The most promising biomarkers, such as glypican-3, osteopontin, Golgi protein-73 and nucleic acids including microRNAs, are most likely to become clinically validated in the near future. These biomarkers are not only useful for early diagnosis of HCC, but also provide insight into the mechanisms driving oncogenesis. In addition, such molecular insight creates the basis for the development of potentially more effective treatment strategies. In this article, we provide an overview of the biomarkers that are currently used for the early diagnosis of HCC.
Core tip: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the fifth most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. The poor prognosis of HCC is due to the fact that diagnosis is often made at a late stage in disease development. Thus, the identification of biomarkers for diagnosis at an early stage may result in significant benefits. An up-to-date review of biomarkers that are currently used for the early diagnosis of HCC is provided in this article.