BioScience Trends. 2021;15(6):397-405. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2021.01517)

Elevated serum CA19-9 indicates severe liver inflammation and worse survival after curative resection in hepatitis B-related hepatocellular carcinoma

Zhang W, Wang YY, Dong X, Yang B, Zhou HY, Chen L, Zhang ZW, Zhang Q, Cao GT, Han ZQ, Li HK, Cui YL, Wu Q, Zhang T, Song TQ, Li Q


We explored the prognostic value of preoperative CA19-9 in α-fetoprotein (AFP)-positive and -negative HCC with hepatitis B virus (HBV) background (HBV-HCC), and explored the underlying mechanism. Recurrence-free survival (RFS) and overall survival (OS) were assessed in HBV-HCC patients who underwent curative resection (Cohort 1). Immunohistochemical staining of CA19-9 in HCC and liver parenchyma were quantified in another cohort of 216 patients with resected HCC (Cohort 2). Immunohistochemical staining of CA19-9 and serum CA19-9 level was also compared between patients with HCC and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC) (Cohort 3). In Cohort 1, CA19-9 ≥ 39 U/mL was an independent risk factor for RFS (HR = 1.507, 95% CI = 1.087-2.091, p = 0.014) and OS (HR = 1.646, 95% CI = 1.146-2.366, p = 0.007). CA19-9 ≥ 39 U/mL was also associated with significantly higher incidence of macrovascular invasion (MaVI) compared with CA19-9 < 39 U/mL (23.0% vs. 7.2%, p = 0.002), and elevated aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase to platelet ratio index (APRI), and lower albumin. Immunohistochemical staining of CA19-9 revealed that CA19-9 expression was found exclusively in the background liver but not in HCC tumor cells. In contrast, tumor tissue was the main source of CA19-9 in ICC patients. CA19-9 ≥ 39 U/mL was associated with worse OS and RFS in both AFP-positive and negative HCC patients. CA19-9 indicated more severe inflammation and cirrhosis in the liver of HCC patients.

KEYWORDS: carbohydrate antigen 19-9, hepatocellular carcinoma, α-fetoprotein, survival, EpCAM

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