Des-gamma-carboxy prothrombin (DCP) is an abnormal form of prothrombin, which is a blood-clotting protein. When a blood vessel is injured, prothrombin is converted into thrombin, an enzyme that promotes blood clotting. DCP is produced by the liver, and production may become elevated in the presence of liver tumors. Blood levels of DCP have proven useful for detecting and monitoring hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a cancer that begins in cells of the liver.
A DCP blood test measures the amount of circulating des-gamma-carboxy prothrombin (DCP), a marker for liver tumors. In conjunction with other tests, DCP tests are used to detect and monitor hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a cancer of the liver. The test is not necessarily sensitive or specific enough to be used as a general screen for HCC, and not every HCC will elevate DCP blood levels. However, combining the DCP test in a panel with two alpha-fetoproteins (AFP and AFP-L3) - the traditional marker for liver cancer - improves testing accuracy and helps distinguish between benign and malignant liver diseases.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of liver cancer, accounting for 3 of 4 cancers that originate in the liver. Liver cancer is common globally but has been relatively uncommon in the United States; however, incidence in the U.S. has tripled over the last three decades. A January 2012 study by Mayo Clinic found the overall incidence in the U.S. to be 6.9 per 100,000 people. In the past, HCC was predominantly caused by cirrhosis and other liver-scarring conditions, but the Mayo study determined that the disease is now occurring as a consequence of hepatitis C infection.