BACKGROUND/AIMS: Glypican-3 (GPC3) protein is highly expressed in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) tissue. It has been suggested as a diagnostic biomarker, but its inconsistent performance means that it requires further assessment. We therefore investigated the diagnostic value of the plasma GPC3 level compared to the alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) level as a diagnostic biomarker of HCC.
METHODS: We enrolled 157 consecutive patients with newly diagnosed HCC and 156 patients with liver cirrhosis (LC) as the control group. GPC3 plasma levels were measured using two commercially available enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs, named as Assay 1 and 2), and AFP levels were measured using an enzyme-linked chemiluminescent immunoassay. The diagnostic accuracy was analyzed using the receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve.
RESULTS: Plasma GPC3 levels in HCC patients were very low (0-3.09 ng/mL) in Assay 1, while only 3 of the 157 patients (1.9%) showed detectable GPC3 levels in Assay 2. The median GPC3 level was not significantly elevated in the HCC group (0.80 ng/mL) compared with the LC group (0.60 ng/mL). The area under the ROC curve (AUC) for GPC3 was 0.559 in Assay 1. In contrast, the median AFP level was significantly higher in HCC (27.72 ng/mL) than in LC (4.74 ng/mL), with an AUC of 0.729.
CONCLUSION: The plasma level of GPC3 is a poor diagnostic marker for HCC, being far inferior to AFP. The development of a consistent detection system for the blood level of GPC3 is warranted.
- Hepatocellular carcinoma
- Sensitivity, Specificity