Research Papers: Immunology:

Alpha-fetoprotein still is a valuable diagnostic and prognosis predicting biomarker in hepatitis B virus infection-related hepatocellular carcinoma

Mingjie Yao, Jingmin Zhao and Fengmin Lu _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:3702-3708. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.6913

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Mingjie Yao1, Jingmin Zhao2 and Fengmin Lu1

1 State Key Laboratory of Natural and Biomimetic Drugs, Department of Microbiology and Infectious Disease Center, School of Basic Medicine, Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing, China

2 Department of Pathology and Hepatology, Beijing 302 Hospital, Beijing, China

Correspondence to:

Fengmin Lu, email:

Jingmin Zhao, email:

Keywords: alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), hepatitis B virus, hepatocellular carcinoma, diagnosis, Immunology and Microbiology Section, Immune response, Immunity

Received: July 04, 2015 Accepted: January 01, 2016 Published: January 13, 2016


Use of serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in clinical practices has been challenged in recent years, due to the lack of specificity and sensitivity. Here we conducted a retrospective study to evaluate the diagnostic and prognostic value of serum AFP among hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients with their pathogenic features taken into consideration. The cohort for this study comprised 318 cases of hepatitis and 731 cases of cirrhosis, as well as 796 HCC patients. Using 11.62ng/mL as a cut-off value, the positive rate of AFP test among serum hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) positive HCC patients was significantly higher than that in those HBsAg negative HCC patients (79.55% vs 56.49%, P < 0.000). Similarly, the median serum AFP level in HCC patients with serum HBsAg positive was significantly higher than that in those HBsAg negative HCC patients (423.89ng/ml vs 40.82ng/ml, P < 0.000). In addition, Kaplan-Meier curve analysis revealed that lower preoperative AFP level implicated a much higher overall survival rate. Of note, such prognosis predicting value was only seen in those chronic HBV infection-related HCC patients, but not among the HCC patients etiologically irrelevant to HBV infection. We believe that serum AFP is of diagnosis and prognostic predicting value for HCC with chronic HBV infection, and strongly suggest use of serum AFP as a biomarker in China and other HBV infection endemic area like Southeast Asia.

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