Background: Biomarkers for accurate diagnosis of early hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are limited in number and clinical validation. We applied SELDI-TOF-MS ProteinChip technology to identify serum profile for distinguishing HCC and liver cirrhosis (LC) and to compare the accuracy of SELDI-TOF-MS profile and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) level in HCC diagnosis. Patients and Methods: Serum samples were obtained from 120 HCC and 120 LC patients for biomarker discovery and validation studies. ProteinChip technology was employed for generating SELDI-TOF proteomic features and analyzing serum proteins/peptides. Results: A diagnostic model was established by CART algorithm, which is based on 5 proteomic peaks with m/z values at 3324, 3994, 4665, 4795, and 5152. In the training set, the CART algorithm could differentiate HCC from LC subjects with a sensitivity and specificity of 98% and 95%, respectively. The results were assessed in blind validation using separate cohorts of 60 HCC and 60 LC patients, with an accuracy of 83% for HCC and 92% for LC patients. The diagnostic odd ratio (DOR) indicated that SELDI-TOF proteomic signature could achieve better diagnostic performance than serum AFP level at a cutoff of 20 ng/mL (AFP20) (92.72 vs 9.11), particularly superior for early-stage HCC (87% vs 54%). Importantly, a combined use of both tests could enhance the detection of HCC (sensitivity, 95%; specificity, 98%; DOR, 931). Conclusion: Serum SELDI-TOF proteomic signature, alone or in combination with AFP marker, promises to be a good tool for early diagnosis and/screening of HCC in at-risk population with liver cirrhosis.
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