Antibody Arrays Identify Potential Diagnostic Markers of Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Biomarker insights Sun, H., Chua, M., Yang, D., Tsalenko, A., Peter, B. J., So, S. 2008; 3: 1-18


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Effective treatment of HCC patients is hampered by the lack of sensitive and specific diagnostic markers of HCC. Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), the currently used HCC marker, misses 30%-50% of HCC patients, who therefore remain undiagnosed and untreated. In order to identify novel diagnostic markers that can be used individually or in combination with AFP, we used an antibody array platform to detect the levels of candidate proteins in the plasma of HCC patients (n = 48) and patients with chronic hepatitis B or C viral infections (n = 19) (both of which are the major risk factors of HCC). We identified 7 proteins that significantly differentiate HCC patients from hepatitis patients (p < 0.05) (AFP, CTNNB, CSF1, SELL, IGFBP6, IL6R, and VCAM1). Importantly, we also identified 8 proteins that significantly differentiate HCC patients with 'normal' levels of AFP (< 20 ng/ml) from hepatitis patients (p < 0.05) (IL1RN, IFNG, CDKN1A, RETN, CXCL14, CTNNB, FGF2, and SELL). These markers are potentially important complementary markers to AFP. Using an independent immunoassay method in an independent group of 23 HCC patients and 22 hepatitis patients, we validated that plasma levels of CTNNB were significantly higher in the HCC group (p = 0.020). In conclusion, we used an antibody array platform to identify potential circulating diagnostic markers of HCC, some of which may be valuable when used in combination with AFP. The clinical utility of these newly identified HCC diagnostic markers needs to be systematically evaluated.

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