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Protein predicts liver cancer recurrence and after transplantation

A new study suggests that Capn4, a protein involved in cell migration, is associated with liver cancer recurrence and metastasis after liver transplantation. Capn4 could potentially be used as a biomarker for diagnosis and a target for therapy. These findings are in the February issue of Hepatology, a journal published by John Wiley & Sons on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). The article is also available online at Wiley Interscience (

Patients with liver cancer (also known as hepatocellular carcinoma) often undergo liver transplantation in an attempt to rid their bodies of the disease. Unfortunately, the cancer recurs in some patients and even metastasizes to other parts of the body, making their prognosis poor. It would be extremely useful to be able to identify patients at increased risk for recurrence. Proteomic technology could help, by identifying molecular markers that reveal a tumor's potential to spread.

Researchers, led by Jia Fan of the Liver Cancer Institute in Shanghai, utilized the technology to study liver cancer cells in search of proteins associated with recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma after liver transplantation. They identified 149 proteins, including 52 that had changes in expression. Additional tests focused their interest on Capn4. They examined it further to determine its association with clinical outcomes of liver cancer patients who undergo transplantation.

The findings show that Capn4 is an important molecule associated with hepatocellular carcinoma metastasis and recurrence. "It was dramatically overexpressed in all metastatic tissues, while it was down-regulated in the non-metastatic tissues," they report.

They found that Capn4 expression was significantly correlated with tumor number, maximal tumor size, tumor encapsulation, venous invasion and pTNM stage. "Furthermore," they report, "patients with Capn4-positive tumors had an increasing risk of recurrence and significantly reduced overall post-transplant survival."

"This is the first study that describes the up-regulation of Capn4 associated with tumor invasion and metastasis after liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma," the authors write. They conclude that Capn4 has the potential to be used as a novel prognostic marker for liver cancer patients, and as a target for therapy.


Contact: Sean Wagner

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