Serum α-Fetoprotein Levels at Time of Recurrence Predict Post-Recurrence Outcomes Following Resection of Hepatocellular Carcinoma.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Although preoperative α-fetoprotein (AFP) has been recognized as an important tumor marker among patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the predictive value of AFP levels at the time of recurrence (rAFP) on post-recurrence outcomes has not been well examined.


Patients undergoing curative-intent resection of HCC between 2000 and 2017 were identified using a multi-institutional database. The impact of rAFP on post-recurrence survival, as well as the impact of rAFP relative to the timing and treatment of HCC recurrence were examined.


Among 852 patients who underwent resection of HCC, 307 (36.0%) individuals developed a recurrence. The median rAFP level was 8 ng/mL (interquartile range 3-100). Among the 307 patients who developed recurrence, 3-year post-recurrence survival was 48.5%. Patients with rAFP > 10 ng/mL had worse 3-year post-recurrence survival compared with individuals with rAFP < 10 ng/mL (28.7% vs. 65.5%, p < 0.001). rAFP correlated with survival among patients who had early (3-year survival; rAFP > 10 vs. < 10 ng/mL: 30.1% vs. 60.2%, p < 0.001) or late (18.0% vs. 78.7%, p = 0.03) recurrence. Furthermore, rAFP levels predicted 3-year post-recurrence survival among patients independent of the therapeutic modality used to treat the recurrent HCC (rAFP > 10 vs. < 10 ng/mL; ablation: 41.1% vs. 76.0%; intra-arterial therapy: 12.9% vs. 46.1%; resection: 37.5% vs. 100%; salvage transplantation: 60% vs. 100%; all p < 0.05). After adjusting for competing risk factors, patients with rAFP > 10 ng/mL had a twofold higher hazard of death in the post-recurrence setting (hazard ratio 1.96, 95% confidence interval 1.26-3.04).


AFP levels at the time of recurrence following resection of HCC predicted post-recurrence survival independent of the secondary treatment modality used. Evaluating AFP levels at the time of recurrence can help inform post-recurrence risk stratification of patients with recurrent HCC.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Tsilimigras, DI; Moris, D; Hyer, JM; Bagante, F; Ratti, F; Marques, HP; Soubrane, O; Lam, V; Poultsides, GA; Popescu, I; Alexandrescu, S; Martel, G; Workneh, A; Guglielmi, A; Hugh, T; Aldrighetti, L; Endo, I; Pawlik, TM

Published Date

  • November 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 28 / 12

Start / End Page

  • 7673 - 7683

PubMed ID

  • 33907924

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1534-4681

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1068-9265

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1245/s10434-021-09977-x


  • eng