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Blood Marker Might Help Spot Early Liver Cancer

Widespread hepatitis infection means millions are at risk, researchers note

TUESDAY, Sept. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Chinese researchers have identified a liver cancer marker in blood that may help identify patients with early-stage liver cancer and predict how well they'll do after treatment.

They found an altered version of RASSF1A -- a tumor suppressing gene -- in the blood of patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and in 58 percent of patients infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV), which increases the risk of liver cancer.

The altered gene was not detected in healthy people.

The team also found that patients who'd been treated for HCC but had high levels of the altered gene were more likely to suffer a cancer relapse.

Widespread HBV infection in China means that almost 10 percent of the country's population is at high risk for HCC, which has a low survival rate if not detected and treated early.

The Chinese University of Hong Kong researchers said they hope their findings will lead to the development of an effective clinical test for early detection of HCC.

The study was to be presented Tuesday at an American Association for Cancer Research conference in Atlanta.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about liver cancer.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Sept. 18, 2007

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