Sequential Serum Metabolomic Profiling after Radiofrequency Ablation of Hepatocellular Carcinoma Reveals Different Response Patterns According to Etiology

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is commonly performed as a curative approach in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); however, the risk of tumor recurrence is difficult to predict due to a lack of reliable clinical and biological markers, and identification of new biomarkers poses a major challenge for improving prognoses. Metabolomics is a promising technique that may lead to the identification and characterization of new disease fingerprints. The objective of the present study was to explore, preoperatively and at various time points post-RFA, the metabolic profile of serum samples from HCC patients to identify factors associated with treatment response and recurrence. Sequential sera obtained before and after RFA procedures for 120 patients with HCC due to cirrhosis were investigated using nuclear magnetic resonance metabolomics. A multilevel orthogonal projection to latent structure analysis was used to discriminate intraindividual metabolic changes in response to RFA treatment. Recurrence-free survival differed depending on the underlying cause of cirrhosis. The statistical model showed significant differences depending on whether the liver disease had a viral or nonviral etiology before RFA intervention (explained variance of R2Y = 0.89 and predictability of Q2Y = 0.34). These profiles were also associated with specific and distinct metabolic responses after RFA.