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Abstract

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the commonest primary hepatic malignancy and the third most common cause of cancer-related death worldwide. Incidence remains highest in the developing world and is steadily increasing across the developed world. Current diagnostic modalities, of ultrasound and α-fetoprotein, are expensive and lack sensitivity in tumor detection. Because of its asymptomatic nature, HCC is usually diagnosed at late and advanced stages, for which there are no effective therapies. Thus, biomarkers for early detection and molecular targets for treating HCC are urgently needed. Emerging high-throughput metabolomics technologies have been widely applied, aiming at the discovery of candidate biomarkers for cancer staging, prediction of recurrence and prognosis, and treatment selection. Metabolic profiles, which are affected by many physiological and pathological processes, may provide further insight into the metabolic consequences of this severe liver disease. Small-molecule metabolites have an important role in biological systems and represent attractive candidates to understand HCC phenotypes. The power of metabolomics allows an unparalleled opportunity to query the molecular mechanisms of HCC. This technique-driven review aims to demystify the metabolomics pathway, while also illustrating the potential of this technique, with recent examples of its application in HCC. (HEPATOLOGY 2013)