National Cancer Institute 'G. Pascale Foundation' - Oncology Research Center of Mercogliano (CROM), Mercogliano, Italy.
The detection and diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) at an early stage may significantly affect the prognosis of HCC patients. Thus, it is necessary to always identify novel putative markers for improving diagnosis. Hepatocarcinogenesis correlates with pathological hepatic angiogenesis. However, each tumor-induced angio-genetic process is influenced by the microenvironment through several pro- and anti-angiogenic factors released from tumor cells, tumor-associated inflammatory cells and/or from the extracellular matrix, and modulated by various signal pathways. In this study, we evaluated the profiling of angiogenic factors using Bio-Plex Pro™ Human Cancer Biomarker Panel 1, a 16-plex magnetic bead-based assay, in sera of patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC) virus, liver cirrhosis (LC) and HCC. Our results demonstrated: i) high levels of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and prolactin only in LC and HCC patients, ii) high levels of soluble human epidermal growth factor receptor‑2 (sHER-2/neu; ErbB-2), sIL-6Ra, leptin (LEP) and platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule‑1 (PECAM-1) in CHC, LC and HCC patients and iii) that sIL-6R correlated with the fibrosis stage in CHC patients, with Child‑Pugh score in those patients with LC and with tumor size in those patients with HCC, confirming that this protein may be used as a predictor of liver damage and of inflammatory process leading to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and subsequently to cancer. Moreover, an interactomic study conducted using the Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) software proved the existence of a correlation between 5 significant proteins [ErbB-2, sIL-6Ra, prolactin (PRL), HGF and LEP] which are involved in the same metabolic pathways.