Reappraisal of serum alpha-foetoprotein as a surveillance test for hepatocellular carcinoma during entecavir treatment

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Abstract

Background & Aims:

The aim of this study was to re-evaluate the diagnostic performance of alpha-foetoprotein (AFP) as a surveillance test for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with hepatitis B virus-related chronic liver disease who were treated with entecavir (ETV).

Methods:

Between January 2007 and August 2012, we analysed 373 treatment-naïve patients with HBV-related chronic hepatitis (n = 229) or cirrhosis (n = 144) who were candidates for surveillance test, and were treated with ETV (0.5 mg/day) for longer than 12 months. To minimize the effect of AFP elevation caused by hepatitis activity, serum AFP levels were measured 12 months after the initiation of ETV treatment.

Results:

Hepatocellular carcinoma developed in 28 patients (7.5%) during a median follow-up period of 48.0 months (IQR = 40.5–57.3 months). The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve for AFP was 0.71 (95% CI = 0.59–0.84). The optimal AFP cut-off value was 13 ng/ml, leading to a sensitivity of 50.0%, specificity of 98.8%, positive predictive value of 77.8% and negative predictive value of 96.1%. In multivariate Cox analysis, an older age, the presence of cirrhosis and AFP levels of ≥20 ng/ml at 12 months after treatment were found to be significantly associated with an increased incidence of HCC.

Conclusions:

The role of serum AFP as a surveillance test should be re-evaluated in patients with HBV-related chronic liver diseases who were treated with antiviral therapy.

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