Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine, National Taiwan University College of Medicine, No,7, Chung San South Road, Taipei 10002, Taiwan. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diagnosis of early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) followed by curative resection or liver transplantation offers the best chance for long-term patient survival. Clinically, ultrasonography has suboptimal sensitivity for detecting early-stage HCC. Several serological tests including alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), the ratio of lens culinaris agglutinin-reactive alpha-fetoprotein to total AFP (AFP-L3/AFP), des-gamma carboxyprothrombin (DCP), and glypican-3 (GPC-3) have been widely investigated as diagnostic biomarkers for early-stage HCC in at-risk populations. However, these tests are not recommended for routine HCC screening. Our objective is to determine the diagnostic performance of AFP, AFP-L3/AFP, DCP, and GPC-3 for the detection of HCC, particularly early-stage tumors meeting the Milan criteria.
We will include cross-sectional studies that consecutively or randomly recruit target populations. We will search the Cochrane Library, Medline, Embase, Science Citation Index, and the Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure. We will also search the MEDION and ARIF databases to identify diagnostic systematic reviews that include primary studies. Reference lists of relevant reviews will be searched for additional trials. Language restrictions will not be applied. Two reviewers will independently screen study eligibility and extract data. Methodological quality will be assessed according to the revised tool for the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (QUADAS-2). Two authors will apply the QUADAS-2 assessment to all the included studies, and any discrepancies will be resolved by the third author. The following test characteristics will be extracted into 2 × 2 tables for all included studies: true positives, false positives, true negatives, and false negatives. Study-specific estimates of sensitivity and specificity with 95% confidence intervals will be displayed in forest plots. When possible, we will use the bivariate random-effects model or the Rutter and Gatsonis hierarchical summary receiver operating characteristic model for statistical analysis. To investigate heterogeneity, we will include study designs, population characteristics, test characteristics, and types of reference standard as the study-level variables.
Our systematic review will allow patients, clinicians, and researchers to determine the diagnostic performance of AFP, AFP-L3/AFP, DCP, and GPC-3 for the detection of early-stage HCC and the potential roles of these diagnostic biomarkers in the existing diagnostic pathways.