Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a common malignancy and now the second commonest global cause of cancer death. HCC tumorigenesis is relatively silent and patients experience late symptomatic presentation. As the option for curative treatments is limited to early stage cancers, diagnosis in non-symptomatic individuals is crucial. International guidelines advise regular surveillance of high-risk populations but the current tools lack sufficient sensitivity for early stage tumors on the background of a cirrhotic nodular liver. A number of novel biomarkers have now been suggested in the literature, which may reinforce the current surveillance methods. In addition, recent metabonomic and proteomic discoveries have established specific metabolite expressions in HCC, according to Warburg's phenomenon of altered energy metabolism. With clinical validation, a simple and non-invasive test from the serum or urine may be performed to diagnose HCC, particularly benefiting low resource regions where the burden of HCC is highest.
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