The growing impact of alpha-fetoprotein in the field of liver transplantation for hepatocellular cancer: time for a revolution
The role of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in the specific setting of the diagnosis and prognosis of patients with hepatocellular cancer (HCC) waiting for liver transplantation (LT) is still controversial. Recently, a marked interest for this marker has been reported, mainly related to its ability to predict the outcome of HCC patients after LT. The growing number of papers in PubMed indicates that AFP has begun a “second life” in the particular context of LT. Looking at the most recent International Guidelines on HCC, it looks obvious that time is ripe to reevaluate the value of AFP in relation to its prognostic ability to identify HCC patients at high-risk for drop-out before and recurrence after LT. Many discrepancies exist worldwide regarding the use of biomarkers in HCC. In contrast to the Western world, AFP is widely used in Asian countries, the reason why being unclear. Indeed, in the (merely Western-dominated) HCC treatment algorithms, the role of AFP as a prognostic tumor marker is still considered to be “under investigation”. One should however realize that the underestimation of the value of AFP in the LT context will hamper further refinements of both the liver allograft allocation process and the selection of the best candidates for this procedure. Moreover, AFP has an important role to play in the monitoring of bridging and/or downstaging procedures bringing eventually the patient to transplantation. So, time has come to reconsider the role and value of AFP (dynamics) in the field of transplant oncology.