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4 November 2020

Metabolic perturbations prior to hepatocellular carcinoma diagnosis: findings from a prospective observational cohort study

In a new study, scientists from the Section of Nutrition and Metabolism at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have uncovered diverse metabolic perturbations associated with the development of hepatocellular carcinoma, a primary cancer of the liver with limited treatment options and poor survival. The results were published in the International Journal of Cancer.

The project, led by Dr Mazda Jenab, Dr Pekka Keski-Rahkonen, and Dr Augustin Scalbert, was based on the multinational European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. The researchers identified 129 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma and an equal number of matched controls from within the EPIC cohort and analysed their blood metabolic profiles using the IARC metabolomics platform.

The analyses, which compared blood levels of metabolites in the cancer cases with those in the healthy matched controls, revealed major alterations in the levels of 92 separate metabolites in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. Of these metabolites, 14 were unambiguously identified and showed clear differences between cases and controls up to 10 years before diagnosis. These 14 metabolites were related to specific dietary and environmental exposures, as well as to liver dysfunction and to metabolism of bile acids and amino acids.

These findings provide new insights into early metabolic perturbations and mechanisms leading to the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. Incidence rates of this cancer type are increasing worldwide, probably as a result of a higher prevalence of obesity and poor dietary and lifestyle patterns. These findings help to unravel etiological pathways in the development of this lethal cancer, contributing vital information towards its prevention and possibly earlier diagnosis.

Stepien M, Keski-Rahkonen P, Kiss A, Robinot N, Duarte-Salles T, Murphy N, et al.
Metabolic perturbations prior to hepatocellular carcinoma diagnosis: findings from a prospective observational cohort study
Int J Cancer, Published online 31 July 2020;
https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.33236

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Publication status

Published in section: IARC News

Publication date: 4 November, 2020, 0:45

Direct link: https://www.iarc.fr/news-events/metabolic-perturbations-prior-to-hepatocellular-carcinoma-diagnosis-findings-from-a-prospective-observational-cohort-study/

© Copyright International Agency on Research for Cancer 2020
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