Circulating microparticles (MPs) are novel potential biomarkers in cancer patients. Their role in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is under intensive investigation. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that MPs expressing the antigen HepPar1 are increased in the blood of subjects with HCC and may serve as markers of early recurrence after liver resection (LR). We studied 15 patients affected by HCC undergoing LR, and used flow cytometry to assess the number of circulating HepPar1+ MPs. Ten subjects without HCC (five with liver cirrhosis and five with healthy livers) were used as controls. After LR, HCC patients underwent a follow-up to check for early recurrence, which occurred in seven cases. The number of circulating HepPar1+ MPs was significantly higher in subjects affected by HCC, compared to individuals without cancer (p < 0.01). We also found that, among HCC patients, the number of circulating HepPar1+ MPs, measured before LR, was significantly higher in those who displayed early recurrence compared to those without recurrence (p = 0.02). Of note, other types of circulating MPs, such as those derived from endothelial cells (CD144+) or those produced by the activated endothelium (CD144+/CD62+), were not associated with HCC, nor could they predict HCC recurrence. HepPar1+ MPs deserve further investigation as novel biomarkers of disease and prognosis in HCC patients.
- hepatocellular carcinoma