Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of most common cancers with a high mortality rate. HBV/HCV infection is an important risk factor to trigger HCC. Therefore, developing serum biomarkers for early diagnosis is crucial to prolong survival in HCC patients. Methods: An antibody array technology was utilized to detect serum from 20 HBV-related HCC patients, 20 chronic hepatitis B patients and 20 normal population, whose results were further validated by ELISA. Results: Both antibody array and ELISA showed that ten growth factors (SCF R, GDF-15, HGF, FGF-4, IGFBP-1, PIGF, GH, GDNF, BDNF and IGF-1) were significantly differential in HCC patients when compared to the non-HCC population. Among these growth factors, the levels of SCF R, GDF-15, HGF, GH and IGF-1 showed significant correlation with hepatitis B and its severity, indicating that these growth factors may promote HCC progression by an HBV-specific mechanism. A therapy targeting these growth factors in hepatitis B patients may help to prevent the development of HCC. FGF4 and GH were found, for the first time, to be upregulated in HCC, suggesting that these two growth factors may serve as novel serum biomarkers for the early diagnosis of HCC. Conclusion: The combined detection of all the differential growth factors may improve the diagnostic accuracy of HCC.
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