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A new tumor marker for the diagnosis of liver cancer has been discovered

Researchers led by Skoltech and Moscow State University professor Olga Dontsova have discovered a new liver-specific non-coding RNA, thereby creating a new panel of potential biomarkers for postoperative diagnosis of various types of liver cancer. 

Author: Bolysbek Dana 

Editor: Merentsova Anastasia 



Tumor markers are body substances that help doctors determine the presence of a tumor process in the body. As tumor markers, you can use any substance that has different concentrations in sick and healthy people. In this case, tumor markers are noncoding RNAs, which are RNA molecules that do not encode proteins, but play an important role in the regulation of cell activity. 


Scientists have discovered a new non-coding RNA in the liver that is specific to the liver. They named it HELIS (HEalthy LIver Specific) because it acts as a biomarker for healthy liver, unlike other tumor markers that indicate the presence of a tumor, and it can be called an anti-tumor marker. 


Scientific Research Institute of Carcinogenesis, Russian Scientific Center Blokhin Russian Ministry of Health and the Petrovsky National Research Center for Surgery provided postoperative samples for 6 types of liver tumors. The HELIS level decreased in all samples and disappeared altogether in some types of malignant neoplasms. The scientists then studied the behavior of some of the known noncoding RNAs in these samples and selected 3 additional potential tumor markers. As a result, they obtained a panel of 4 biomarkers, which are expressed differently in different types of liver cancer and thus help distinguish between benign and malignant tumors. 


Currently, there is no proven diagnostic marker for liver cancer, so doctors make a diagnosis based on the results of ultrasound or computed tomography, and remove the entire tumor surgically, regardless of the type of cancer. The final diagnosis is based on the results of histological examination, which become available after 10-14 days. New tumor markers will be used for rapid additional analysis of ambiguous clinical cases.