Xin Wei Wang, PhD, on New Blood Test Able to Identify Those Likely to Develop HCC

The co-leader of the NCI Center for Cancer Research Liver Cancer Program discussed the clinical utility of the blood test and how it could potentially change liver cancer diagnoses moving forward.

According to study results published in Cell, researchers have developed a new blood test that may help identify individuals who are likely to develop hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

In this study, investigators profiled serological samples from 899 individuals currently enrolled in a National Cancer Institute-University of Maryland (NCI-UMD) case-control study of liver cancer, including 150 who had HCC. They then used a synthetic virome technology, titled VirScan, to detect the exposure history of these individuals to more than 1000 human viruses.

Using this high-throughput method, researchers developed a unique viral exposure signature (VES) that could discriminate HCC cases from at-risk or healthy volunteers. They then validated this signature in a prospective cohort of 173 individuals with chronic liver disease who were part of a 20-year study. During that time, 44 of the participants developed HCC.

In an interview with CancerNetwork®, study leader Xin Wei Wang, PhD, co-leader of the NCI Center for Cancer Research Liver Cancer Program, spoke about the use of the blood test and how it could potentially change liver cancer diagnoses moving forward.

“Blood tests provide a so-called less-invasive or non-invasive approach to detect a cancer, [so] obviously blood tests are the ideal method for screening patients for signs of cancer,” Wang explained.

Though the test is still in its early stages of development, Wang indicated that this approach has the possibility to be utilized in other cancer spaces as well.

“We are planning to apply this approach to other cancer types,” said Wang. “At least for now that includes cholangiocarcinoma, another liver cancer type due to liver fluke infection, and prostate cancer, especially those for individuals with African descent.”

This segment comes from the CancerNetwork® portion of the MJH Life Sciences National Broadcast, airing daily on all MJH Life Sciences channels.


Liu J, Tang W, Budhu A, et al. A Viral Exposure Signature Defines Early Onset of Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Cell. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2020.05.038.

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