Proteomics of hepatocellular carcinoma: Serum vimentin as a surrogate marker for small tumors (≤2 cm)

Stella Sun, Ronnie T P Poon, Nikki P. Lee, Chun Yeung, K. L. Chan, Irene O L Ng, Philip J R Day, John M. Luk

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Small hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) can be effectively cured by surgery with good clinical outcomes. However, the conventional AFP marker is ineffective in detecting small tumors. Here we employed a proteomic profiling approach to identify a candidate marker for HCC (≤2 cm) in tumor tissues and then evaluate its clinical feasibility in patients? sera. The study was divided into 2 phases. (i) Biomarker discovery: we collected 76 frozen liver tissues (40 HCC and 36 controls) for proteomics profiling. Candidate protein markers were identified by MALDI-TOF/TOF and confirmed by immunoblot and qPCR. (ii) Clinical evaluation: Selected biomarker was tested by ELISA for sensitivity and specificity using serum samples from a separate cohort of 152 subjects (88 HCC and 64 controls). Vimentin was found significantly overexpressed in HCC, in particular the small-size subgroup (≤2 cm) with p <0.01. When tested in the serum samples, vimentin level was significantly higher in small tumors than the non-neoplastic controls (AUC = 0.69 and p <0.01). Further analysis suggested that elevated circulating vimentin level could detect small HCC at 40.91% sensitivity and 87.50% specificity. Moreover, vimentin was found to be superior to serum AFP assayed at different cut-offs in detecting small tumors. When combined with AFP, the detection sensitivity and specificity could be further enhanced to 58.77 and 98.15%, respectively. In conclusion, serum vimentin is a potential surrogate marker, either alone or in combination with AFP, for detection of small HCCs. © 2010 American Chemical Society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1923-1930
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Proteome Research
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2010


    • AFP
    • Biomarker
    • Cancer screening
    • HCC
    • Tumor detection
    • Tumor size


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