Each year, cirrhosis patients have a two to five percent chance that their condition will escalate to cancer, he explains. And the problem is that, right now, there is no reliable means of detecting liver cancer at an early stage, when surgical treatment is an option. Typically by the time the disease is discovered, the cancer has advanced and treatment options become much more limited.
The best hope for early detection is cancer biomarkers, serum proteins found in altered amounts in blood or other body fluids. The current biomarker for liver cancer in clinical use is alpha fetoprotein (AFP). In many cases, patients with hepatitis C undergo routine monitoring for AFP levels as an indicator of whether tumors may have developed in their livers.
But, as Libermann explains, the AFP biomarker has a number of shortcomings, including false positives and false negatives. AFP not only fails to detect many early tumors, but it also lacks specificity. Consequently, elevated AFP levels could be indicators of not only cancer, but also of other liver diseases or even benign conditions, while on the other hand, many patients with small tumors will test negative for AFP.
The authors, therefore, decided to evaluate the sensitivy and specificity of SELDI-TOF MS for the detection of liver cancer and to compare its effectiveness with AFP.
Examining serum samples of 92 patients including 51 patients with liver cirrhosis and 41 patients with liver cancer, and among the cancer patients, individuals with both large and small (less than 2 cm) tumors -
|Contact: Bonnie Prescott|
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center