Clinical Oncology/Epidemiology

Alpha-L-fucosidase as a serum marker of hepatocellular carcinoma in southern African blacks

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to compare alpha-L-fucosidase and alpha-fetoprotein as serum markers of hepatocellular carcinoma in 72 southern African blacks with this tumour and 64 matched patients with benign hepatic diseases which might be mistaken clinically for hepatocellular carcinoma. Alpha-L-fucosidase activity was assayed using p-nitrophenyl-L-fucopyranoside (pNpf) as a substrate and alpha-fetoprotein concentrations were measured by radioimmunoassay. Serum alpha-L-fucosidase activity in the patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (mean 1,268, s.e.m. +/- 83.7, median 1,150 and range 38-3,698 nmol pNpf ml-1 h-1) was significantly higher than that in the matched controls (mean 798, s.e.m. +/- 65.8, median 648 and range 273-3,825 nmol pNpf ml-1 h-1) (P = 0.0001). However, alpha-L-fucosidase was both less sensitive (75 versus 87%) and less specific (70 versus 87%) than alpha-fetoprotein as a serum marker of hepatocellular carcinoma. When, in an endeavour to eliminate false-positive results, the diagnostic cut-off level for alpha-L-fucosidase was increased to 1,500 nmol pNpf ml-1 h-1 and for alpha-fetoprotein to 400 ng ml-1, the sensitivity of alpha-L-fucosidase fell to 21% whereas that of alpha-fetoprotein remained satisfactory at 78%. If the two markers were used together, the number of false-negative alpha-fetoprotein results was reduced from 13 to 5.5%. We conclude that alpha-L-fucosidase is less useful than alpha-fetoprotein as a single marker of hepatocellular carcinoma in southern African blacks. However, the two markers can profitably be used together.

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Bukofzer, S., Stass, P., Kew, M. et al. Alpha-L-fucosidase as a serum marker of hepatocellular carcinoma in southern African blacks. Br J Cancer 59, 417–420 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1038/bjc.1989.84

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