Early increase in α-fetoprotein for predicting unfavorable clinical outcomes in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma treated with sorafenib

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To determine the value of early alterations of the tumor markers α-fetoprotein (AFP) and des-γ-carboxy prothrombin (DCP) for predicting the outcomes of patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) who receive sorafenib.

Materials and methods

Tumor response, overall survival (OS), and progression-free survival (PFS) were retrospectively analyzed in 59 patients with advanced HCC. Serum AFP and DCP were examined for early elevation within 4 weeks after the initiation of sorafenib. An increase in AFP was defined as AFP of more than 20%, and an increase in DCP was defined as more than two-fold higher level than the baseline. The relationship of the clinical characteristics, laboratory data at baseline, and early elevations of AFP and DCP with disease progression was analyzed.


The median OS and PFS were 11 and 3.3 months, respectively. The rate of progressive disease (PD) was 54%, and an early increase in AFP was significantly related to PD (P=0.006) and was a significant independent predictor of both poorer OS and PFS (P<0.001, hazard ratio, 4.14; 95% confidence interval, 1.946–8.811; and P=0.001, hazard ratio, 2.852; 95% confidence interval, 1.524–5.337, respectively). There was no association between early increase in DCP and clinical outcomes.


Early increase in AFP predicted PD and poorer survival and may thus be a useful biomarker in patients with advanced HCC who receive sorafenib.

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