A simple 2-parameter blood test alert for the presence of small hepatocellular carcinomas

Author(s): Brian I Carr, Harika Gozukara Bag, Volkan Ince, Zeki Ogut, Adem Tuncer, Sami Akbulut, Veysel Ersan, Sertac Usta, Burak Isik and Sezai Yilmaz

Objectives: The majority of HCCs present at an advanced stage in which potentially curative therapies cannot be used. Surveillance ultrasound has been found to increase the numbers of patients diagnosed with small tumors, but it is often not used. We aimed to try to identify widely-available and cheap potential serum markers for use in patients at risk for HCC.

Material and Methods: A comparison was made of the complete blood count and liver function tests in a group of patients (n=114) with proven small HCCs (≤ 2 cm) and patients without HCC (n=506), all of whom were treated by liver transplantation in our Liver Transplantation Institute.

Results: Significant differences were found for blood levels of WBC, lymphocytes, total bilirubin and transaminases. Several 2-parameter combinations were assessed, but only the combination of total bilirubin and lymphocytes was found to be significantly different between patients with small HCCs and no HCC. Multivariate regression analysis showed significance only for total bilirubin levels and lymphocyte counts. The results were confirmed using a separate small cohort of nontransplant patients.

Conclusion: The combination of elevated levels of total bilirubin and lymphocyte counts holds promise for identification of patients with chronic liver disease who are at risk for HCC.