Liquid biopsy in the clinical management of hepatocellular carcinoma

Johann Von Felden, Teresa Garcia-Lezana, Kornelius Schulze, Bojan Losic, Augusto Villanueva

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


With increasing knowledge on molecular tumour information, precision oncology has revolutionised the medical field over the past years. Liquid biopsy entails the analysis of circulating tumour components, such as circulating tumour DNA, tumour cells or tumour-derived extracellular vesicles, and has thus come as a handy tool for personalised medicine in many cancer entities. Clinical applications under investigation include early cancer detection, prediction of treatment response and molecular monitoring of the disease, for example, to comprehend resistance patterns and clonal tumour evolution. In fact, several tests for blood-based mutation profiling are already commercially available and have entered the clinical field. In the context of hepatocellular carcinoma, where access to tissue specimens remains mostly limited to patients with early stage tumours, liquid biopsy approaches might be particularly helpful. A variety of translational liquid biopsy studies have been carried out to address clinical needs, such as early hepatocellular carcinoma detection and prediction of treatment response. To this regard, methylation profiling of circulating tumour DNA has evolved as a promising surveillance tool for early hepatocellular carcinoma detection in populations at risk, which might soon transform the way surveillance programmes are implemented. This review summarises recent developments in the liquid biopsy oncological space and, in more detail, the potential implications in the clinical management of hepatocellular carcinoma. It further outlines technical peculiarities across liquid biopsy technologies, which might be helpful for interpretation by non-experts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2025-2034
Number of pages10
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • hepatobiliary cancer
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • surveillance
  • tumour markers


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