Clinical Pathology

Circulating Cell-Free DNA and DNA Integrity as Molecular Diagnostic Tools in Hepatocellular Carcinoma



We assessed the ability to use circulating cell-free DNA (cfDNA) and the DNA integrity index (DNAII) to detect the transition from liver cirrhosis (LC) to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).


Circulating cfDNA and DNAII were measured in 50 patients with advanced LC and 50 patients with HCC who were followed for 1 month after transarterial chemoembolization (TACE). Fifty healthy participants served as a control group. Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to measure circulating cfDNA concentration, and Alu-PCR was used to measure the concentration of Alu repeats, both short fragments (115 base pairs [bp]) and long fragments (247 bp). We compared liquid biopsy results with the relevant traditional markers.


The HCC group showed significantly higher circulating cfDNA concentrations and DNAII values compared with the LC and control groups. No significant differences were found in circulating cfDNA concentrations and DNAII values between the LC and control groups. Circulating cfDNA concentrations decreased significantly after treatment (TACE); areas under the curve of circulating cfDNA concentration and DNAII values were significantly better than those of ɑ-fetoprotein and vascular endothelial growth factor in discriminating between LC and HCC.


The combined use of DNAII with proteins induced by vitamin K absence or antagonist showed better diagnostic performance in HCC. Circulating cfDNA could have a potential role in monitoring HCC treatment.

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