Validation of a Novel Multitarget Blood Test Shows High Sensitivity to Detect Early Stage Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Naga P. Chalasani, Kyle Porter, Abhik Bhattacharya, Adam J. Book, Brenda M. Neis, Kong M. Xiong, Tiruvidaimarudur S. Ramasubramanian, David K. Edwards, Irene Chen, Scott Johnson, Lewis R. Roberts, John B. Kisiel, K. Rajender Reddy, Amit G. Singal, Marilyn C. Olson, Janelle J. Bruinsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Although biannual ultrasound surveillance with or without α-fetoprotein (AFP) testing is recommended for at-risk patients, sensitivity for early stage HCC, for which potentially curative treatments exist, is suboptimal. We conducted studies to establish the multitarget HCC blood test (mt-HBT) algorithm and cut-off values and to validate test performance in patients with chronic liver disease. Methods: Algorithm development and clinical validation studies were conducted with participants in an international, multicenter, case-control study. Study subjects had underlying cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis B virus; HCC cases were diagnosed per the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases criteria and controls were matched for age and liver disease etiology. Whole blood and serum were shipped to a central laboratory and processed while blinded to case/control status. An algorithm was developed for the mt-HBT, which incorporates methylation biomarkers (HOXA1, TSPYL5, and B3GALT6), AFP, and sex. Results: In algorithm development, with 136 HCC cases (60% early stage) and 404 controls, the mt-HBT showed 72% sensitivity for early stage HCC at 88% specificity. Test performance was validated in an independent cohort of 156 HCC cases (50% early stage) and 245 controls, showing 88% overall sensitivity, 82% early stage sensitivity, and 87% specificity. Early stage sensitivity in clinical validation was significantly higher than AFP at 20 ng/mL or greater (40%; P < .0001) and GALAD (gender, age, Lens culinaris agglutinin-reactive AFP, AFP, and des-γ-carboxy-prothrombin score) of -0.63 or greater (71%; P = .03), although AFP and GALAD at these cut-off values had higher specificities (100% and 93%, respectively). Conclusions: The mt-HBT may significantly improve early stage HCC detection for patients undergoing HCC surveillance, a critical step to increasing curative treatment opportunities and reducing mortality. number NCT03628651.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-182.e7
JournalClinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Early Cancer Detection
  • Hepatocellular Carcinoma Surveillance
  • Liquid Biopsy
  • Multitarget Hepatocellular Carcinoma Blood Test
  • mt-HBT


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