Dipartimento di Medicina Interna, UOC di Medicina interna ad Indirizzo Gastroenterologico, Pad. C, 2° piano, AOU Policlinico Universitario, Via Consolare Valeria, 1-98125 Messina, Italy.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a typical hypervascular tumor. The utility of serum alpha-fetoprotein (α-FP) in its detection is questionable. Over-expression and high circulating levels of insulin-like growth factor-II (IGF-II) were reported in tissue and in serum of patients with HCC. We investigated the diagnostic application of IGF-II in the diagnosis of HCC.
Serum IGF-II and α-FP levels were measured in 178 patients (82 with HCC and 96 with liver cirrhosis) and in 30 healthy controls. Spearman test, non parametric combination test and confidence interval analysis were used for statistical evaluation of data.
The best cut-off values selected by ROC curves were 796ng/ml for IGF-II and 132ng/ml for α-FP. IGF-II mean values were higher in patients with HCC than in those with liver cirrhosis (LC) (p=0.0001) but lower in LC than in controls (p=0.0001). Serum IGF-II levels above cut-off were found in 22% of patients with HCC, in 9.3% of those with cirrhosis and in 20% of controls. α-FP serum levels >132ng/ml were observed in 48% of HCC, in 3.1% of LC and in none of control group. By correlation study, serum IGF-II levels were significantly correlated with serum α-FP levels (r=0.427, p=0.0001) and with nodules' diameter (r=0.252, p=0.0130) but not with nodules' number (p>0.050). Finally, IGF-II showed lower sensitivity, specificity and predictive values than α-FP.
Circulating IGF-II is not a useful marker for HCC. Further researches are however needed to evaluate its diagnostic accuracy before and after nutritional adjustment.