Researchers develop blood test to predict liver cancer risk
In cohorts of 409 patients with NAFLD, a 133-gene signature, prognostic liver signature (PLS)–NAFLD, predicted incident HCC over up to 15 years of longitudinal observation. High-risk PLS-NAFLD was associated with IDO1+ dendritic cells and dysfunctional CD8+ T cells in fibrotic portal tracts along with impaired metabolic regulators. PLS-NAFLD was validated in independent cohorts of patients with NAFLD who were HCC naïve or HCC experienced. PLS-NAFLD was bioinformatically translated into a four-protein secretome signature, PLSec-NAFLD, which was validated in an independent cohort of HCC-naïve patients with NAFLD and cirrhosis. A combination of PLSec-NAFLD with our previously defined etiology-agnostic PLSec-AFP yielded improved HCC risk stratification. PLS-NAFLD was modified by bariatric surgery, lipophilic statin, and IDO1 inhibitor, suggesting that the signature can be used for drug discovery and as a surrogate end point in HCC chemoprevention clinical trials. Collectively, PLS/PLSec-NAFLD may enable NAFLD-specific HCC risk prediction and facilitate clinical translation of NAFLD-directed HCC chemoprevention.