Perspectives on using des-γ-carboxyprothrombin (DCP) as a serum biomarker: facilitating early detection of hepatocellular carcinoma in China
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in China. Evidence has shown that surgical resection and liver transplantation may offer the best potential for treating HCC but are only available to patients whose tumors are detected early. Over the past few decades, although a series of measures for standardized management of HCC has been implemented in China, most patients with HCC in China still present with advanced-stage disease, thus strategies to screen for and diagnose HCC at an earlier stage are urgently needed in China when curable interventions can be offered to achieve long-term disease-free survival for patients with HCC. In China, the serum biomarker α-fetoprotein (AFP) is considered a useful and feasible tool for HCC screening and early diagnosis. However, the sensitivity and specificity of AFP vary widely, and the total AFP is not always specific, especially when HCC is in its early stages. Globally, numerous studies have reported that the combination of des-γ-carboxyprothrombin (DCP) and AFP may have a higher sensitivity than AFP alone, and suggested DCP could also be used to assess the progression of HCC. However, DCP has not been approved in China until now. Differ from most of Western countries, people with HBV infection are the largest population at risk of developing HCC China. In order to assess the screening and diagnostic value of DCP in Chinese patients with HCC, a first large-scale, multi-center study was launched in China in 2012, results showed that DCP can help to detect HCC in its early stages and facilitate definitive treatment. The clinical use of DCP is urgently needed to facilitate early detection of HCC in China.