A comparison of statistical methods for the detection of hepatocellular carcinoma based on serum biomarkers and clinical variables

Mengjun Wang, Anand Mehta, Timothy M. Block, Jorge Marrero, Adrian M. Di Bisceglie, Karthik Devarajan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Currently, a surgical approach is the best curative treatment for those with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, this requires HCC detection and removal of the lesion at an early stage. Unfortunately, most cases of HCC are detected at an advanced stage because of the lack of accurate biomarkers that can be used in the surveillance of those at risk. It is believed that biomarkers that could detect HCC early will play an important role in the successful treatment of HCC. Methods. In this study, we analyzed serum levels of alpha fetoprotein, Golgi protein, fucosylated alpha-1-anti-trypsin, and fucosylated kininogen from 113 patients with cirrhosis and 164 serum samples from patients with cirrhosis plus HCC. We utilized two different methods, namely, stepwise penalized logistic regression (stepPLR) and model-based classification and regression trees (mob), along with the inclusion of clinical and demographic factors such as age and gender, to determine if these improved algorithms could be used to increase the detection of cancer. Results and discussion. The performance of multiple biomarkers was found to be better than that of individual biomarkers. Using several statistical methods, we were able to detect HCC in the background of cirrhosis with an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of at least 0.95. stepPLR and mob demonstrated better predictive performance relative to logistic regression (LR), penalized LR and classification and regression trees (CART) used in our prior study based on three-fold cross-validation and leave one out cross-validation. In addition, mob provided unparalleled intuitive interpretation of results and potential cut-points for biomarker levels. The inclusion of age and gender improved the overall performance of both methods among all models considered, while the stratified male-only subset provided the best overall performance among all methods and models considered. Conclusions: In addition to multiple biomarkers, the incorporation of age and gender into statistical models significantly improved their predictive performance in the detection of HCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberS9
JournalBMC Medical Genomics
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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