Hepato-Biliary-Pancreatic Surgery Division, Department of Surgery, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.
Over the past few decades, the screening for and early diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has attracted attention worldwide, and especially in Asian countries such as Japan and China. Such approaches can help detecting HCC at an earlier stage when curable interventions can be offered to achieve long-term disease-free survival for patients. Biomarkers have been used to screen for and diagnose HCC in various countries. In Japan, the combined tests of des-Γ-carboxyprothrombin (DCP) and α-fetoprotein (AFP) or Lens culinaris agglutinin-reactive fraction of AFP (AFP-L3) have been shown to achieve a high level of sensitivity and specificity. These tests have routinely been used to screen for HCC and are covered by Japan's national health insurance. Due to the routine practice of screening for HCC among high-risk patients, HCC nodules have been detected in the early stages in more than 60% of patients in Japan. In contrast, although several remarkable advances in the management of HCC have been made in China over the past few decades, most HCC patients still present with advanced-stage disease. AFP is the only serum biomarker that has widely been used to screen for and diagnose HCC in China. In recent years, several molecular biological studies have further investigated the clinical usefulness of DCP, and they have found that it may facilitate the screening for and diagnosis of HCC and assist with the assessment of HCC progression. DCP can serve as a biomarker to detect HCC in an early stage and facilitate definitive treatment. The wide implementation of DCP is expected, especially in China where 55% of HCC cases worldwide live.