Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Serum albumin (Alb) is an important prognostic factor for patients with HCC. Moreover, plasma levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), L-valine, L-leucine, and L-isoleucine, are commonly decreased in patients with cirrhosis. Accordingly, formulations of BCAA has been used to maintain the Alb level and prevent ascites in patients with cirrhosis. The aim of this study is to investigate differences in the changes in Alb between a group that received a BCAA formulation (n = 29) and a group given a standard diet (n = 60) in the course of HCC recurrences. All patients experienced more than one hospitalization (mean: 2.6; range: 2-10) owing to recurrence. The plasma BCAA concentration and BCAA-to-tyrosine ratio (BTR), which is a good indicator of the severity of hepatic parenchymal injury in patients with cirrhosis, were significantly correlated with Alb. We defined the changes in BCAA and Alb between recurrences as ΔBCAA and Δ Alb, respectively, and stratified the patients in both groups based on number of recurrences (3 < early, 3-5 middle, or 5 > later). There was also a positive correlation between ΔBCAA and Δ Alb. Interestingly, in the group with BCAA, Δ Alb and Δ BCAA were significantly smaller, especially in the middle period (3-5 recurrences), than in the group without BCAA. These results indicate that the BCAA supplementation could maintain the BCAA and Alb levels in the middle period (3-5 recurrences). BCAA formulation is useful for hypoalbuminemia in the course of HCC recurrence.
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