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J Clin Lab Anal. 2008;22(3):204-9. doi: 10.1002/jcla.20241.

Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) isoenzymes and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity in the sera of patients with liver cancer.

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Department of Biochemical Diagnostics, Medical University, Waszyngtona 15A, Bialystok, Poland.


The principal enzymes catalyzing the conversion of ethanol to acetate are alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). The activities of these enzymes are elevated in the serum during the course of alcoholism or cirrhosis. In previous investigations we have found elevated levels of ADH, ALDH, and class I ADH activity in liver cancer cells. It can suggest that these changes may be reflected by enzyme activity in the serum. In this work, the activity of ADH isoenzymes, and ALDH in the sera of patients with liver cancer was measured. Serum samples were taken from 64 patients (28 drinkers, 36 nondrinkers), with liver cancer. 25 patients had primary and 39 metastatic liver tumors. Total ADH activity was measured by photometric method with p-nitrosodimethylaniline (NDMA) as a substrate and ALDH activity by the fluorimetric method with 6-methoxy-2-naphtaldehyde as a substrate. For the measurement of the activity of class I and II isoenzymes we employed the fluorimetric methods, with class-specific fluorogenic substrates. The activity of class III ADH was measured by the photometric method with formaldehyde and class IV with m-nitrobenzaldehyde as a substrate. A statistically significant increase of class I ADH isoenzymes was found in the sera of cancer patients. The median activity of this class isoenzyme in the total cancer group increased about 51% (2.94 mU/L) in the comparison to the control level (1.43 mU/L). The activity of the class I ADH isoenzyme was significantly higher in the sera of patients with metastatic tumors than with primary cancers. The activity of this class in the sera of drinkers and group of moderate drinkers was significantly higher in comparison to the control group and higher in the sera of heavy drinkers when compared with moderate drinking patients. The total ADH activity was significantly higher (44%) among patients with cancer than healthy ones. The activity of class I ADH isoenzymes was elevated only in the serum of patients with metastatic liver cancer. This increase of activity seems to be caused by the enzyme released from liver cancer cells and primary tumors originating in other organs.

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