For detection of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with liver cirrhosis, serum alpha-fetoprotein has been widely used, but its sensitivity has not been satisfactory, especially in small, well-differentiated HCC, and complementary serum marker has been clinically required. Glypican-3 (GPC3), a heparan sulfate proteoglycan anchored to the plasma membrane, is a good candidate marker of HCC because it is an oncofetal protein overexpressed in HCC at both the mRNA and protein levels. In this study, we demonstrated that its NH(2)-terminal portion [soluble GPC3 (sGPC3)] is cleaved between Arg(358) and Ser(359) of GPC3 and that sGPC3 can be specifically detected in the sera of patients with HCC. Serum levels of sGPC3 were 4.84 +/- 8.91 ng/ml in HCC, significantly higher than the levels seen in liver cirrhosis (1.09 +/- 0.74 ng/ml; P < 0.01) and healthy controls (0.65 +/- 0.32 ng/ml; P < 0.001). In well- or moderately-differentiated HCC, sGPC3 was superior to alpha-fetoprotein in sensitivity, and a combination measurement of both markers improved overall sensitivity from 50% to 72%. These results indicate that sGPC3 is a novel serological marker essential for the early detection of HCC.
Hippo, Y., Watanabe, K., Watanabe, A., Midorikawa, Y., Yamamoto, S., Ihara, S., … Aburatani, H. (2004). Identification of Soluble NH2-Terminal Fragment of Glypican-3 as a Serological Marker for Early-Stage Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Cancer Research, 64(7), 2418–2423. https://doi.org/10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-03-2191