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J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2004 Sep;130(9):497-513. Epub 2004 Jun 17.

Recent progress in predictive biomarkers for metastatic recurrence of human hepatocellular carcinoma: a review of the literature.

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  • 1Liver Cancer Institute and Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, 136 Yi Xue Yuan Road, 200032 Shanghai, P.R. China.


Molecular markers (biomarkers) for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) metastasis and recurrence could provide additional information to that gained from traditional histopathological features. A large number of biomarkers have been shown to have potential predictive significance. One important aspect of this is to detect the transcripts of tumor-associated antigens (such as AFP, MAGEs, and CK19), which are proposed as predictive markers of HCC cells disseminated into the circulation and for metastatic recurrence. Another important aspect is to analyze the molecular markers for cellular malignancy phenotype, including DNA ploidy, cellular proliferation index, cell cycle regulators, oncogenes, and tumor suppressors (especially p53 gene), as well as telomerase activity. Molecular factors involved in the process of HCC invasion and metastasis, including adhesion molecules (E-cadherin, catenins, ICAM-1, laminin-5, CD44 variants, osteopontin), proteinases responsible for the degradation of extracellular matrix (MMPs, uPA system), as well as angiogenesis regulators (such as VEGF, intratumor MVD), have also been shown to be potential predictors for HCC metastatic recurrence and clinical outcomes. One important new trend is to widely delineate biomarkers with genomic and proteomic expression with reference to predicting metastatic recurrence, molecular diagnosis, and classification, which has been drawing more attention recently. Body fluid (particularly blood and urine) testing for biomarkers is easily accessible and more useful in clinical patients. The prognostic significance of circulating DNA in plasma or serum and its genetic alterations is another important direction. More attention should be paid to these areas in the future. As understanding of tumor biology deepens, more and more new biomarkers with high sensitivity and specificity for HCC metastatic recurrence could be found and routinely used in clinical assays. However, the combination of the pathological features and some of the biomarkers mentioned above seems to be more practical up to now.

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