Aims: We evaluated the clinical utility of glypican-3 (GPC3), which has been proposed as a potential novel tumor marker for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), as a serological and histological marker for HCC.
Methods: The serum GPC3 level was compared between 200 patients with HCC and 200 patients with chronic liver disease (CLD). In addition, the expression of GPC3 was examined with immunohistochemistry on 38 resected specimens from patients with HCC. A commercially available GPC3 antibody was used for these analyses.
Results: The median values of serum GPC3 in patients with HCC and with CLD were 924.8 pg/mL and 1161.6 pg/mL, respectively. We found no elevation of serum GPC3 level in patients with HCC in comparison with those with CLD; rather the level was higher in patients with CLD (P < 0.0001). In immunohistochemical analysis, 14 of 38 (36.9%) HCC tissues were positive for GPC3, whereas no corresponding non-cancerous tissue was positive. The positivity for GPC3 tended to increase with pathologic decreased differentiation of HCC.
Conclusions: We did not find serum GPC3 level, measured by a commercially available ELISA kit with GPC3 antibody, to be useful in the diagnosis of HCC. However, we did observe increased GPC3 staining in HCC tissue with moderate or poor differentiation, suggesting that GPC3 is produced by HCC tumors. This lack of utility could have been due to the measuring procedure used in the present study. Further evaluation of GPC3 in HCC with other measuring procedures is needed.