The incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is increasing worldwide, with the second highest increase in overall death rates. The incidence and mortality rates for HCC are virtually identical because most patients are diagnosed late, when curative treatment is not available. The key challenge in HCC control and prevention are detecting and treating the disease as early as possible. Enhancing detection, molecular classification and individualized treatment approaches provide tremendous opportunity to improve the outcome of patients with HCC.
Biomarkers and targets will be instrumental in making that transition. Currently, serum α-fetoprotein (AFP), the only serological marker commonly used in diagnosis, has poor sensitivity and specificity for HCC. In addition, since the long-term prognosis of patients with advanced HCC remains very poor, it is imperative to identify and develop confirmative biomarkers and targets for early detection, molecular classification and treatment of HCC. HCC is a tumor with heterogeneity,and single biomarker has obvious limitations in diagnosis of HCC. Instead, panels of biomarkers or gene expression signatures seem to be a promising alternative for the use in clinical laboratories. Recent developments of high throughput screening technology such as gene-expression microarrays, proteomics, and microRNA profiling permit thousands of molecules to be screened simultaneously. Our laboratory has screened and charactered MXR7(GPC-3) as a novel marker of HCC. Combination measurement of MXR7 and AFP markedly improved diagnostic sensitivity. We also found p28 as a potential therapeutic target for HCC.
We believe that integrating data from different levels is being increasingly regarded as a key approach in searching for novel biomarkers and targets of HCC.The development of new biomarkers and targets, as well as practical methodology to measure them, are introducing new hope in supporting for the early detection and treatment of HCC.