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Cancer Res. 1990 Dec 15;50(24):7843-51.

Alpha-fetoprotein in the woodchuck model of hepadnavirus infection and disease: normal physiological patterns and responses to woodchuck hepatitis virus infection and hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Department of Microbiology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Rockville, Maryland 20852.


Persistent infection of the eastern woodchuck (Marmota monax) with the woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) produces disease sequelae similar to those observed in humans with persistent hepatitis B virus infection, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). To further characterize serological markers of HCC in the woodchuck, serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) was measured under normal physiological conditions and following infection with WHV. Serum AFP was elevated in association with WHV-induced hepatitis and HCC and was a useful indicator of hepatic responses in individual animals throughout the course of experimental WHV infection. The frequent occurrence of normal elevations in serum AFP during the fall and winter, however, limits the use of AFP as a marker for early detection of HCC. The present temporal studies of AFP responses in WHV-infected woodchucks have identified several stages of infection where virological and cellular interactions can be investigated at the molecular level. Studies of AFP in the woodchuck model should provide opportunities to further elucidate the physiological and immunological functions of AFP and to understand virus-host cell interactions during the course of experimental hepadnavirus infection leading to HCC.

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