Hepatectomy is feasible for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) with good hepatic function who meet the Milan criteria. Several studies have indicated that tumor markers of HCC, α-fetoprotein (AFP), Lens culinaris agglutinin-reactive fraction of AFP percentage and protein induced by vitamin K absence/antagonist-II were good predictors of malignant potential. It is important to identify highly malignant cases of HCC, and the aim of this study was to clarify the impact of triple positive tumor markers as the prognostic factors for early stage HCC within the Milan criteria.
This study investigated 199 patients who underwent hepatectomy for HCC within the Milan criteria between January 2001 and May 2009. Cumulative recurrence-free survival (RFS), overall survival (OS) and clinicopathological parameters were analyzed according to the number of positive tumor markers.
In patients with triple positive tumor markers, 5-year RFS and OS was poor (17.1 and 61.4%, respectively). Multivariate analyses revealed independent risk factors for recurrence to be hepatitis C virus antibody positivity, non-initial treatment for HCC and triple positive tumor markers, and the independent risk factors for OS were high indocyanine green retention rate at 15 min value, maximum tumor size and triple positive tumor markers. Pathologically invasive growth, microvascular invasion and moderate to poor differentiation were significantly related to the number of the three tumor markers.
Triple positive tumor markers for early stage HCC within the Milan criteria showed poor prognosis and malignant characteristics. These markers could be a useful predictor for the degree of malignant potential in early stage HCC.