background The development of hepatocellular carcinoma in liver cirrhosis is associated with altered synthesis and secretion of several growth factors.
aim The aim of this prospective study was to investigate the potential implication of IGF-I and its major binding protein (IGFBP-3) in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma.
patients and methods IGF-I and IGFBP-3 were measured in 150 healthy subjects, 40 patients with liver cirrhosis and 63 with liver cirrhosis and untreated hepatocellular carcinoma. The ratio between IGF-I and IGFBP-3 was also calculated.
results Serum IGF-I (70 ± 10 and 65 ± 7 vs. 185 ± 6·4 µg/l, P < 0·001) and IGFBP-3 levels (1225 ± 113 and 984 ± 67 vs. 3017 ± 80 µg/l, P < 0·001) were lower in patients with liver cirrhosis, without or with hepatocellular carcinoma, than in controls. Age was negatively correlated with IGF-I levels in patients with liver cirrhosis (r = −0·6; P = 0·0002) as well as in controls (r = −0·8, P < 0·0001), but not in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (r = −0·2; P = 0·2). Additionally, in patients with liver cirrhosis (r = −0·54; P = 0·0003) and more weakly in those with hepatocellular carcinoma (r =−0·24; P = 0·04) IGF-I levels were negatively correlated with liver failure measured according with Child class. Despite patients with class C hepatocellular carcinoma being older than those in the same functional class with cirrhosis (64 ± 2 vs. 57 ± 2 years, P < 0·01), they had a significantly increased IGF-I : IGFBP-3 ratio (0·18 ± 0·05 vs. 0·41 ± 0·09, P = 0·04), due mostly to increased IGF-I levels (27·1 ± 5·6 vs. 42 ± 6·2 µg/l) as IGFBP-3 levels were similar to patients with cirrhosis (734 ± 81 vs. 679 ± 83 µg/l).
conclusions Hepatocellular carcinoma is associated with a higher IGF-I : IGFBP-3 ratio than that found in patients with liver cirrhosis and a similar degree of liver failure.