Deciphering hepatocellular carcinoma through metabolomics: from biomarker discovery to therapy evaluation

Wei Guo, Hor Yue Tan, Ning Wang, Xuanbin Wang, Yibin Feng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third most common cause of death from cancer, with increasing prevalence worldwide. The mortality rate of HCC is similar to its incidence rate, which reflects its poor prognosis. At present, the diagnosis of HCC is still mostly dependent on invasive biopsy, imaging methods, and serum α-fetoprotein (AFP) testing. Because of the asymptomatic nature of early HCC, biopsy and imaging methods usually detect HCC at the middle-late stages. AFP has limited sensitivity and specificity, as many other nonmalignant liver diseases can also result in a very high serum level of AFP. Therefore, better biomarkers with higher sensitivity and specificity at earlier stages are greatly needed. Since metabolic reprogramming is an essential hallmark of cancer and the liver is the metabolic hub of living systems, it is useful to investigate HCC from a metabolic perspective. As a noninvasive and nondestructive approach, metabolomics provides holistic information on dynamically metabolic responses of living systems to both endogenous and exogenous factors. Therefore, it would be conducive to apply metabolomics in investigating HCC. In this review, we summarize recent metabolomic studies on HCC cellular, animal, and clinicopathologic models with attention to metabolomics as a biomarker in cancer diagnosis. Recent applications of metabolomics with respect to therapeutic and prognostic evaluation of HCC are also covered, with emphasis on the potential of treatment by drugs from natural products. In the last section, the current challenges and trends of future development of metabolomics on HCC are discussed. Overall, metabolomics provides us with novel insight into the diagnosis, prognosis, and therapeutic evaluation of HCC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)715-734
Number of pages20
JournalCancer Management and Research
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Oncology

User-Defined Keywords

  • Biomarker
  • Diagnosis and therapy
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Metabolomics


Dive into the research topics of 'Deciphering hepatocellular carcinoma through metabolomics: from biomarker discovery to therapy evaluation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this