Serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels and its expression in liver tissue was studied in 50 cases of histologically confirmed hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Serum AFP levels were elevated (greater than 20iu/ml) in 35/50 (70%) of the cases, 28 of whom had levels greater than 500 iu/ml, which is highly suggestive of HCC. These results indicate that serum AFP, by itself, is a relatively insensitive diagnostic test for HCC. Although elevated levels in high risk patients provide a specific clue, a negative result does not exclude the diagnosis of HCC. Expression of AFP by tumour cells paralleled that of serum in the majority of cases. However, tissue AFP was negative in 7 patients who had markedly elevated serum AFP. This observation may be a reflection of preferential excretion of the tumour antigen or differential expression of the antigen by the tumour cells. None of the patients with normal serum AFP demonstrated a reaction for tissue AFP. There was no correlation between AFP production and tumour differentiation.
The cytological features of a rare case of undifferentiated (embryonal) sarcoma of the liver are presented. The cytology smears showed singly dispersed polygonal and spindle cells as well as loose clusters of cells held together in myxoid material. Neoplastic cells were generally large with round, oval or lobulated nuclei. The cytoplasm was variable in amount with ill-defined borders. Occasional multinucleated cells were also present. Hyaline globules were present on sections of the cell block. Immunohistochemical studies performed showed positivity for vimentin, cytokeratin and alpha-1-antitrypsin (AAT) in the tumour cells.