Using cell-free DNA for HCC surveillance and prognosis

Nguyen H. Tran, John Kisiel, Lewis R. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common form of primary liver cancer. Its incidence is rising faster than any other cancer in the United States and it remains one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. While advances in massive parallel sequencing and integration of ‘omics information have transformed the field of oncology, tissue access is often limited in HCC and a single biopsy is poorly representative of the known genetic heterogeneity of tumours. Liquid biopsy has emerged as a promising strategy for analysing circulating tumour components including circulating tumour DNA. Cell-free DNA and tumour DNA are derived from necrotic, apoptotic and living eukaryotic cells. The profiling of genetic and epigenetic alterations in circulating cell-free DNA has potential clinical applications including early disease detection, prediction of treatment response and prognostication in real time. Novel biomarker candidates for disease detection and monitoring are under study. Of these, methylation analyses of circulating tumour DNA have shown promising performance for early HCC detection in at-risk patients. Assessments of assay performance in longitudinal validation cohorts are ongoing. Implementation of liquid biopsy for HCC will likely improve upon the current surveillance strategy. This review summarises the most recent developments on the role and utility of circulating cell-free DNA in the detection and management of HCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100304
JournalJHEP Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • cell-free nucleic acids
  • cfDNA
  • circulating biomarker
  • ctDNA
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • liver cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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