Circulating biomarkers in hepatocellular carcinoma

K. Morris, J. Tugwood, L. Khoja, M. Lanchashire, D. Burt, PO. Shenjere, C. Zhou, C. Hodgson, T. Ohtomo, A. Katoh, T. Ishiguro, J. Valle, C Dive

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE: Our aims are to determine levels of circulating cellular and protein biomarkers in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients and to analyse any relationships with clinical parameters. METHODS: Fifty-four consenting patients were recruited. Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) were enumerated (by CellSearch) and characterised via filtration [by isolation by size of epithelial tumour cells (ISET)] with downstream immunohistochemistry (IHC). Glypican-3 (GPC3) expression in tumour biopsies and CTCs (by IHC) was compared, and levels of circulating caspase-cleaved and full-length cytokeratin 18 (CK18, measured using M30 and M65 ELISAs) were examined as a putative prognostic factor and marker of tumour burden. RESULTS: CTCs were identified in 14 out of 50 (28%) patients by CellSearch and in 19 out of 19 (100%) patients by ISET. The presence of GPC3-positive CTCs by ISET was 100% concordant with the presence of GPC3-positive cells in the original tumour (n = 5). No statistically significant correlations were observed between CTC number and clinical characteristics, although trends were noted between CTC subtypes, Child-Pugh score and tumour node metastasis stage. Serum M30 and M65 levels (as continuous variables) significantly correlated with overall survival (OS) in a univariate analysis (p = 0.003 and p <0.001, respectively); M65 levels remained statistically significant in a multivariate analysis (p = 0.029). CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to detect GPC3-positive CTCs in HCC, important for drug development with this target. The significant association of circulating CK18 with OS in HCC further exemplifies the utility of circulating biomarkers in cancer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-332
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2014


  • Circulating tumour cells (CTCs)
  • Cytokeratin 18 (CK18)
  • Glypican-3 (GPC3)
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
  • Prognostic biomarker


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