Mohamed Asrih, Sébastien Lenglet, François Mach, Fabrizio Montecucco, Cardiology Division, Department of Medicine, Geneva University Hospital, Foundation for Medical Research, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.
The assessment of the prognosis in patients with early hepatocellular carcinoma represents a hot-topic issue that requires further improvements and clarifications. The life expectancy of the patients has been shown to depend on several clinical and histological parameters (such as patient's general conditions, macroscopic tumor morphology and histopathology). Recently, the prognostic role of some biomarkers [i.e., alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)] has been also investigated with controversial findings mainly on the assessment of patient survival. The study by Giannini et al failed to show a prognostic value of AFP on survival of patients with well-compensated cirrhosis and small hepatocellular carcinoma. Since the study presents some limitations, a larger clinical trial is needed to clarify the potential prognostic role of serum AFP levels in these patients.