Researchers discovered that mean platelet volume (MPV) is an independent factor in helping clinicians distinguish hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) from intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (iCCA), as published in BMC Gastroenterology

HCC and iCCA are 2 cancers that share overlapping risk factors and clinical signs and symptoms, but strategies to treat either cancer remain different. Hence, it is vital that physicians are able to differentiate between these 2 liver cancer subtypes and arrive at a correct diagnosis. However, their similarities make this a challenge.

Two useful methods to differentiate between these cancers are contrast-enhanced computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. However, studies reveal that around 1 in 10 cases is misdiagnosed using either method. In addition, biomarkers used to distinguish between HCC and iCCA, such as alpha-fetoprotein and carbohydrate antigen 19-9, have low diagnostic sensitivity.

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MPV has been used as a biomarker in various cancers, such as colorectal cancer, lung cancer, and thyroid cancer. The authors of this study decided to conduct a study to clarify the possible role of MPV in differentiating between iCCA and HCC. 

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They reviewed clinical data of patients from the Harbin Medical University Cancer Hospital in China who were diagnosed with either iCCA or HCC. The patients selected must have received a pathological diagnosis and have undergone curative liver resections. The researchers were then able to compare the usefulness of MPV and other variables in differentiating iCCA from HCC. 

“MPV plays a key role in distinguishing [iCCA] from HCC . . . MPV might exert distinct functions in the pathology of [iCCA] and HCC,” the researchers concluded.

However, the exact mechanisms of how MPV can be used to differentiate between the 2 liver cancer subtypes remain unclear. Further studies are needed to validate the findings of this study before the clinical utility of this potential biomarker.


Zhang X, Huang WJ, Zhang ML, et al. Utility of mean platelet volume in differentiating intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma from hepatocellular carcinoma. BMC Gastroenterol. 22:288. doi:10.1186/s12876-022-02348-0