A. D. Di Bisceglie, R. Sterling, R. Chung
Sep 1, 2005
Journal of hepatology
BACKGROUND/AIMS Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) has been useful in the diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) but lacks specificity. We assessed serum AFP among patients with chronic hepatitis C and advanced fibrosis to establish predictors of AFP elevations and changes with antiviral therapy. METHODS Serum AFP was measured at baseline and on therapy in patients in the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment against Cirrhosis (HALT-C). AFP levels were correlated with patient demographic and clinical features. RESULTS Baseline AFP was > or = 20 ng/mL in 191 of 1145 patients (16.6%). Mean AFP values were significantly higher in patients with cirrhosis than in those with bridging fibrosis (22.5 vs. 11.4 ng/mL, P < 0.0001). Factors independently associated with raised serum AFP in patients with cirrhosis were female gender, black race, decreased platelet count, increased serum AST/ALT ratio, serum ferritin, and Mallory bodies in liver biopsies. Serum AFP levels decreased significantly during therapy with pegylated interferon alpha-2a and ribavirin. HCC was identified in six subjects, only three of whom had AFP > 20 ng/mL. CONCLUSIONS Among patients with advanced chronic hepatitis C, serum AFP values are frequently elevated, even in the absence of HCC. Factors associated with raised AFP include severity of liver disease, female gender and black race. Serum AFP levels decline during antiviral therapy.