Background: Trypsin Inhibitor Kazal1 (SPINK1) is overexpressed in various tumors, but its role in hepatitis B virus (HBV) related hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate SPINK1 levels during the chronic progression of HBV infection and their association with the prognosis of HBV-related HCC.
Methods: This study enrolled 102 patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB), 95 patients with HBV-related liver cirrhosis (LC), 104 patients with HBV-related HCC, 25 patients with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ICC), and 98 healthy controls (HCs). The serum expression of SPINK1 in each group was compared. SPINK1 levels in the supernatant of HepG2.2.15, HepG2, Huh7, and LO2 cells were determined by ELISA. The diagnostic efficacy of SPINK1 for HBV-related HCC was evaluated. Hazard ratios (HRs) for the short-term prognosis of HBV-related HCC were assessed.
Results: SPINK1 levels were the highest in the HBV-related HCC group compared with the HC, CHB, HBV-related LC, and ICC groups (3.19 ± 1.11 versus 1.09 ± 0.38, 1.75 ± 0.55, 2.09 ± 0.62, and 2.40 ± 0.85 ng/mL, p < 0.01). SPINK1 levels in the supernatant of HepG2.2.15 cells were higher than those in HepG2, Huh7, and LO2 cells (2.85 ± 0.03 versus 1.54 ± 0.04, 1.50 ± 0.04, 0.9 ± 0.04 ng/mL, p < 0.001). The best cutoff point for the SPINK1 level was 2.48 ng/mL. The high SPINK1 expression group (≥ 2.48 ng/mL) had a larger tumor size, poorer Child-Pugh classification and more HBV DNA than the low expression group (< 2.48 ng/mL) (all p < 0.05). In the HBV-related HCC group, a SPINK1 level ≥ 2.48 ng/mL along with a high alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) level, large tumor size and poor Child-Pugh grade predicted poorer overall survival (HR 4.65, 95% confidence interval (CI): 2.07 - 10.43, p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Serum SPINK1 had a high diagnostic efficacy for predicting HBV-related HCC. The presence of HBV-related HCC with a high serum SPINK1 level (≥ 2.48 ng/mL) may be associated with a poor short-term prognosis.